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Powwow planned for embattled Manhattan Beach civics

The tragic death of a four-year-old hit by bus while crossing Oriental Boulevard could bring two rival Manhattan Beach civic groups to the same table — but don’t expect them to stay there for too long.

The Manhattan Beach Civic Group and the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association may join together at a summit to improve traffic safety in the neighborhood weeks after the death of Evan Svirsky, who was killed by the B49 bus on Oct 7. Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio and other southern Brooklyn politicians are working with members of both groups to organize the meeting.

“We have a chance to stand together and stop this horrible tragedy from happening again,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, in an impassioned speech at it’s Oct. 20 meeting. “It’s time to move on.”

The potential meeting between the nearly 70-year-old Manhattan Beach Community Group and the upstart Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, which formed in 2008, would be the first time the two sat together during their historically fractious existence. However, Neighborhood Association president Alan Ditchek says that he does not want a lasting reunion.

“Both groups are valuable on their own,” Ditchek said. “We will definitely meet for a traffic summit, but I don’t think we should unite permanently.”

In 2008 disgruntled members of the civic — embittered by its failed campaign for new zoning laws — accused Zalcman of election fraud before starting their own group. Since the split, the two groups have engaged in a Cold War of sorts, bashing each other’s leaders at their respective monthly meetings.

But in light of Svirsky’s death — the third Manhattan Beach traffic fatality in the past two years — Zalcman has invited Neighborhood Association members to come back to the original civic group. Some members are in favor of a reconciliation, saying that a unified front would be more effective in addressing local issues.

”We need to exercise all our community resources,” said Edmund Dweck, a member of the Neighborhood Association.

Local politicians, who have been cautious not to play favorites in the sage, are eager for a civic group reconciliation.

”We want to help both groups to work out their differences and become one organization,” said Steve Zeltser, a spokesman for Councilman Michael Nelson.

Others say that a potential reunion poses too many complicated questions, such as who would lead a newly unified group and what would the name be? When addressing these questions, Zalcman was nearly as resistant to compromises as his Neighborhood Association counterpart.

“I’ve invited them to come back under the Manhattan Beach Community Group name,” Zalcman said.

Despite the feud, both civic groups have similar proposals to prevent future traffic accidents. At the heart of their demands to the city is the removal of the giant planters that are in the middle of several traffic medians on Oriental Boulevard. Residents say that the planters block the views of drivers making turns.

”We had requested planters that were half the size,” Zalcman said. “The ones that are installed now are ridiculous.”

The groups also want the police to provide more speeding enforcement on Oriental Boulevard.

Members from both sides also agree that the city ignores the traffic problems that plague Manhattan Beach. They hope that a joint summit will attract attention to the area.

“We want to be known as a community that gets things accomplished,” Zalcman said.

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