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Williamsburg Co-Op Board Calls Critics of Election System 'Uninformed'

By Serena Dai | August 26, 2014 1:07pm
 Shareholders for the Betterment of Lindsay Park rallied in August to demand fairer board election practices at their public co-op. The current board has implemented questionable tactics that has led to years of corruption, they say.
Lindsay Park
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WILLIAMSBURG — The board of a middle-income housing co-op shot back at critics who claimed members mismanaged the complex — calling them "uninformed" and "ineffective" former board members.

About 900 residents of the 2,700-plus unit Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative, at 54 Boerum St., submitted a petition last week asking the board to hold a special meeting to change election practices, which residents claimed were questionable and barred them from voting in new management.

The petition requested a vote to change the bylaws so that only "directed proxies" may be used, meaning tenants must designate a board candidate to vote for, instead of giving the proxy holder a "blank check" to freely choose candidates.

But the current board countered in a statement, saying that the election practices are already fair and monitored by an independent third party approved by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, including Election Services Solution last year.

"The Board of Directors of Lindsay Park Housing Corp. has consistently used fair election procedures that have been reviewed by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and that are implemented impartially and honestly by an independent election monitor," the board wrote in a statement, which was sent to DNAinfo by the board's attorney, David Berkey.

The statement blamed the furor on "a group of relatively uninformed and disappointed tenant-shareholders, who have not been able to have members of their group elected to the Lindsay Park Board and who oppose needed maintenance increases at Lindsay Park."

"They have attacked the Lindsay Park Board with unsubstantiated charges of 'corruption' and they claim, also without any proof, that the election procedures are 'exclusionary.' There is no basis to any of these charges," the statement added.

The board argued that the critics are just angry they haven't been able to get their own candidates on the board under the current system, and added that limiting proxies is "restrictive" to the democratic process.

"The shareholders voted to elect experienced, competent individuals to the Board, not the opposing candidates, many of whom previously served on the Board ineffectively," the board said.

Critics, under the group name Shareholders for the Betterment of Lindsay Park, submitted the petition at a rally last Tuesday, with the support of Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

They alleged that the current board and its president, Cora Austin, have stayed in power for too long due to questionable election practices.

Attorneys with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, which is representing the petitioning shareholders, said those who signed the petition are within their rights to try and change the system as part of the democratic process.

The group's lead attorney, Greg Louis, likened the terms of the petition to wanting to create term limits for elected office. If people don't like the way the system is run, they should be able to change it, he said. 

And directed proxies — where residents choose who they want to vote for — is "the most accountable  and democratically responsive measure someone could implement," Louis added.

"That is a million percent sensible and legal," he said.

A meeting will be held "within a reasonable time," Berkey said. According to the co-op's bylaws, the board must notify shareholders of the special meeting within 10 to 40 days of the meeting's date.

Berkey said that the Election Services Solutions is verifying all the signatures on the petition and will hire an independent election company to monitor the special meeting.

Correction: A previous version of the story noted that the bylaws required a meeting within 10 to 40 days of the petition and that the co-op board would be verifying the signatures. The story has been updated to reflect corrections.