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Bushwick Board Vows to End 'Illegal' Invite-Only Liquor License Meetings

By Serena Dai | May 21, 2015 1:45pm
 Community Board 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted said the board will now keep its liquor license meetings open to the public.
Community Board 4 District Manager Nadine Whitted said the board will now keep its liquor license meetings open to the public.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

BUSHWICK — A Bushwick community board announced Wednesday that it will be moving its liquor license meetings from the police precinct to board offices — a change it vows will open its closed-door gatherings to the public.

DNAinfo New York reported earlier this week that Community Board 4 barred the public from being present at a Monday night public safety meeting where committee members planned to discuss liquor license applications — a practice that violates state law on open meetings, according to state officials.

CB4 District Manager Nadine Whitted claimed at the meeting that "very, very sensitive information" from the NYPD's 83rd Precinct, which hosted the meeting at their stationhouse, required the gatherings to take place behind closed doors. She also defended the practice by saying businesses that apply for liquor licenses don't want the public present during their discussions. 

But at Wednesday's regular full board meeting, public safety committee Chairwoman Barbara Smith announced that in the future, all public safety meetings will be moved to board offices at 1420 Bushwick Ave.

Whitted later clarified that anyone would be allowed to attend those monthly meetings.

"It's always open when it's held at our office," Whitted said. "It's invite only when it's held at other places."

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who appoints board members, said his office had a "comprehensive conversation" with the board Wednesday about the importance of the open meetings law.

Whitted declined to elaborate on their conversation, but told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday that the meetings were being moved because "you made a big stink about it."

"Rather than having issues, we'll have [the meeting] at our place," she said.

Community board committee meetings must follow open meeting laws, meaning the board is legally required to notify the public about gatherings and allow access to them, according to state and local officials.

Monday night's closed meeting was at least the third time in the last two years that the board had illegally blocked the public from open meetings.

Yet there are some in the community, including elected officials, who expressed support for the practice of barring the public from the meetings in violation of the open meetings law.

On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila commended the board for hosting its public safety meetings inside the precinct stationhouse — prompting loud applause from the room.

"I do not want to see the Community Board 4 become a three-hour meeting as to how we’re going to renew or reject liquor licenses," she said.

As Wednesday night's meeting, which lasted more than three hours, wrapped up, CB4 chairwoman Julie Dent reminded everyone that all are welcome to all of the board's gatherings.

"All of our meetings are public," she said. "None of our meetings are closed door meetings."