CROWN HEIGHTS — A local community board meeting was cut short Tuesday night after a group of protesters barred from entering the standing-room-only gathering launched an impromptu protest in the hallway outside.
Community Board 9's October full board meeting at Medgar Evers College on Bedford Avenue and Crown Street had been slated to include a presentation about traffic improvements from the Department of Transportation and the approval for five liquor license applications.
However, the meeting had to be called off at 8:30 p.m. — an hour and a half after it started and before boardmembers had a chance to vote on any of the items on the agenda — once members of Movement to Protect the People, a group formed this year to challenge the process of rezoning in the neighborhood, began their protest.
The group — whose leader, Alicia Boyd, had sent out an email Tuesday afternoon asking MTOPP supporters to attend the hearing “prepared to speak out" — began shouting at NYPD officers who barred the doors to the CB9 meeting when the auditorium exceeded capacity, according to boardmembers and witnesses.
“They’re separating us,” Boyd shouted outside the doors as she led approximately a dozen supporters in a chant of “no justice, no peace.”
Police sources said CB9 requested additional support from the 71st Precinct for the meeting Tuesday, in anticipation of MTOPP attending, though officers from the precinct regularly attend the meetings.
MTOPP is upset with CB9 for allowing a study about rezoning the area to move forward without sufficient public input. They have been protesting for months, most recently forcing the board to take a revote on their decision at the September CB9 meeting and protesting outside the board offices earlier this month.
Though the rezoning issue was not on Tuesday's meeting agenda, board chairman Dwayne Nicholson initially announced to those present at the meeting that he would allow MTOPP to speak during the public comment period.
But the meeting didn’t get that far — or even far enough for board members to vote on agenda items. After about an hour of MTOPP protesting outside of the doors of the auditorium, Nicholson said an administrator from Medgar Evers College asked the board to shut the meeting down and he agreed to postpone it.
“We didn’t get a chance to vote on anything,” Nicholson said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, everything is in limbo.”
But a spokeswoman from the college, Jamilah Fraser, said the school had nothing to do with the decision to end the gathering, saying the board was solely responsible for the rescheduling.
“We don’t really get involved in things like that unless it really affects the safety and the well-being of our students and our staff,” Fraser said.
Due to the postponement, board members did not vote on the five liquor licenses, the DOT’s proposal to build more speed bumps in Crown Heights and CB9’s budget requests to the city. The hold-up, board members said, doesn’t help anyone in the community.
“Because of their bad behavior, the board is not being allowed to function,” said Warren Berke, the chairman of the economic development committee for CB9. “They have alienated our hosts, who donated the space.”
As the meeting ended Tuesday night, Nicholson said it would be rescheduled to next Monday. But even that date is up in the air, he said, if the board cannot find a large enough space at the college.
As of Wednesday, Fraser of Medgar Evers said the board had not yet requested space from the college for a meeting next week.
After the meeting, MTOPP prepared to continue their protest of what they describe as a “violation of the law.” In an email to members sent Wednesday, Boyd encouraged members to come to an "emergency meeting" to discuss the CB9 gathering, which she described as “political corruption going rampant in our community.”
For updates about the next Community Board 9 meeting, visit the board’s website.