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The head of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association has ruled that the press can attend the group’s meetings — for now defying a large bloc of members who want their discussions to remain behind closed doors.
During its November gathering last Wednesday, many members demanded that the meetings be closed to the press as a form of retribution against reporters who covered the widespread vandalism by local hooligans on Halloween night.
Members of the group reserved their most intense anger for blogger Dan Cavanagh, whose Gerritsenbeach.net not only reported on the out-of-control teens throwing rocks, potatoes and eggs along Gerritsen Avenue, but posted the vandals’ apparent confessions that had been posted on the kids’ Facebook pages.
The group’s meetings were private as recently as 20 years ago, when residents had to show membership cards before being allowed entry. Because the group, which dates back to 1922, has never received public funding, it can legally close their meetings.
But Association President George Broadhead said that meetings have been open to the public for the last decade — ever since the group began inviting elected officials and the 61st Precinct to discuss issues of concern in the community.
Usually, Cavanagh and his video camera are the only “press” that attend. But last week’s meeting drew reporters from this publication; Sheepshead Bites, a local website; and WPIX Channel 11 after it was learned that the police were going to address last week’s Halloween hooliganism. Broadhead allowed everyone but WPIX inside.
At the meeting, Broadhead appeared to agree to close the meetings to reporters. But in an interview on Monday, he said the press would continue to be allowed inside, at least for the foreseeable future. Banning the press can only come after the Association votes on the issue, Broadhead said, and although members complained vituperatively, no one actually called for such a vote.
“Personally, I believe in transparency,” Broadhead said. “If we invite politicians and [Community Board 15 Chairwoman] Teresa Scavo to the meetings when they are not members, then the meetings should be open to cameras.”
Of course, even if the Association votes to ban the press, it wouldn’t stop Cavanagh from coming.
“They’ve been trying to kick me out for a while, but I’m a member,” Cavanagh said.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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