Coronavirus fears force groups to cancel public meetings

SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — Fear of the coronavirus is seeping into civic life in Southwest Brooklyn, as one community organization after another has opted to cancel public meetings.

Community education councils and community boards have opted to forgo monthly meetings and town halls out of concern for public safety.

Community Board 11, which advocates on behalf of the residents of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach with city agencies, called off its monthly meeting set for March 12.

“We want to be cautious, so we thought it best to cancel,” Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia told the Home Reporter.

Elias-Pavia pointed out that Board 11 usually holds its meetings at the Bensonhurst Center for Health Care and Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility at 1740 84th St. with numerous elderly residents.

Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that adults over the age of 60 are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.

“We didn’t have enough time to find an alternative location, so we decided to cancel. We’ll set a new date,” Elias-Pavia said.

In addition, the Community Education Council of District 21, a parent-led panel that represents schools in Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, has announced that it will postpone a town hall with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza that had been scheduled for March 25.

“District 21 recognizes how valuable it is for our community to attend a town hall with Chancellor Carranza, however, in light of recent events and the health concerns of parents and the community, as well as efforts to limit non-essential large gatherings to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the council’s consensus is to postpone the March 25 town hall with the chancellor to a later date,” CEC 21 leaders wrote in an email.

CEC 21 did not set a new date for the town hall.

CEC 21’s neighbors, the District 20 CEC, called off its planned public meeting scheduled for March 11.

“With an abundance of caution, we have decided to cancel tonight’s monthly CEC meeting. We apologize for any inconvenience and we look forward to seeing you at our next monthly meeting,” CEC 20 Administrative Assistant Natalia Mondesir wrote in an email to parents. CEC 20 represents schools in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Sunset Park.

The list of cancelations also includes Community Board Six in Park Slope, which was supposed to hold a meeting on March 11.

“This decision was made based on feedback from board members, indicating that we would not have achieved quorum. By law, there can be no action taken in the absence of a quorum. Given members’ health concerns and the fact that there is nothing time-sensitive on the agenda, there is no reason to cajole our volunteers to attend,” Chairperson Peter Fleming and District Manager Michael Racioppo wrote in an email.

The coronavirus is also having an effect on politics at the grassroots level.

The Bay Ridge Democrats, a neighborhood political organization, called off its March 12 meeting, citing a call by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for New Yorkers to take precautions.

“Due to the state of emergency declared by the governor and out of an abundance of caution, the club has canceled our March general meeting this week,” a statement from the club reads. “Club elections and speakers will be postponed until April.”

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