The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

CB9 Mtg Goes Extra Innings - District Manager Removed

Update: Word reaches the Q that Pearl Miles will be filing a lawsuit against the Community Board, claiming the firing was age discriminatory, political and without merit.

In a removal motion that was eerily bare on hard facts and thick with MTOPP lingo, Pearl Miles was removed as District Manager of Community Board 9 after more than 30 years of dedicated, albeit sometimes combative, civil service. The Board went into Executive Session and sealed Ms. Miles fate after her heartfelt rebuttal of the claims against her. There was no evidence presented of legal wrongdoing, but clearly Pearl has pissed off a lot of community residents and board members through the years. When the vote was announced to the still full auditorium at 11pm, a big cheer went up from the anti-everything crowd, as I've come to think of them. They pulled big numbers tonight, carrying signs and carrying on.

Personally, I found the display of celebration to be cruel and unnecessarily jubilant, as if the Beast had finally been slain. While many complained of Pearl Miles' lack of compassion for the community, they showed her absolutely zero of same as her long career came to an end. And that, I suspect, is further proof that it wasn't really Pearl they were after. The anti-development crowd will spit on  anyone who would dare try to suggest to Developers, who are already on a building spree, that they build affordable and senior housing as part of their "investment" in the community.

It was pretty lonely for the Q tonight. Despite the fact that I know for a fact that my opinions on Transportation are mirrored by many, I was the lone voice tonight for a very clear-headed DOT plan to improve pedestrian, bicycle and (yes) automobile safety at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Empire and Franklin. It was even suggested by some in the audience that the REAL reason that DOT and the Design Commission want to close the ridiculous one-way Franklin Ave going the wrong way by the Western Beef was to make way for residential towers where the WB's parking lot now sits. Say what? This project has been in the pipeline for years. DOT's elegant approach to the intersection was torn to shreds, by angry motorists mostly, too upset about traffic and parking to recognize the very real possibility that a safer, saner intersection might save lives. So what did I learn tonight? That many attendees tonight were:

1) Anti Safety
2) Anti Housing (yes, and I'll explain further another day)
3) Anti Gentrification (that was a given)
4) Anti Greenspaces and Trees (the plan at Empire/Franklin included a nice pedestrian plaza)
5) Anti pretty much everyone who works for the City and gets invited to the Board to present their projects for improvements to infrastructure
6) Anti All Community Board Members
7) Anti Chair Demetrius Lawrence
8) Anti Tim Thomas (another given)
9) Anti longtime chair Jacob Goldstein
10) Anti Due Process
11) Anti Bike Lane
12) Anti Pedestrian
13) Anti Traffic Calming
14) Anti Bicycle (tonight I was called - gasp - one of those bicycle people)
15) Anti Social (the lack of respect for the Board and its speakers is really quite shocking, given that they're pretty much all dedicated servants to the community)

Civility, shall we say, was not apparent, really, I must say, until the Board deliberated alone. With a few exceptions, the conversation was heated but never nasty, and Chair Lawrence did a terrific job of running the show. Which makes me wonder how much better the Board would operate without the running commentary by MTOPP and its cronies.

All well and good I suppose. Democracy was served, and I lost pretty much every issue. I have no intention of stopping sharing my opinions, though, and I do hope that somewhere down the line those of you with some horse sense will join the effort to plan for a NYC and world 5, 10, 50 years hence. One where DOT can drop the statistic that 29 people were killed or maimed at two intersections will be met with concern, rather than selfish defense of their need to get from point A to B without interference from pesky safety improvements.

My last point is one that the Board will have adequate time to digest long after the night's "celebration" wears off. Pearl Miles does not have any intention of letting her poorly conceived dismissal letter go unchallenged. She will file suit. She will probably win, since personality is not a disqualifying factor against 30 years of competent, even exemplary, hard work and attention to detail. She runs a clean, organized office. She knows the position backwards and forwards, and I imagine over the years she's learned plenty of tidbits that could take people down if she's feeling vindictive. And why wouldn't she? She wasn't given so much as a warning. Granted, it wasn't even close. The vote was, like, 32 to 7 to 3 abstentions. Who knows maybe she'll get a better job offer elsewhere. She has lots and lots of admirers in City Government, who I believe appreciate her no-bullshit attitude. But her Achilles heal was her pride, which blinded her to the need to be polite and warm. I'll miss Pearl Miles. She was feisty, but she was bold.

Lastly, to one complaint against Pearl that I found absolutely ludicrous. She posted some comments on her personal Facebook page that were so generally misanthropic that no legal expert could pin them to a disdain for the neighborhood and those in it, as was alleged. She was having a bad day, and said the world was full of stupid people acting like assholes (I paraphrase). No mention of our neighborhood, or ethnicity or race, or anything other than general disdain for mediocrity and ignorance. And who among you hasn't privately thought the same? And so now private Facebook confessions of despair are reasons for termination? Close my account. Actually, close my blog.

Actually, I might have to borrow some of that language from Pearl's comments on Facebook. I'm feeling a bit misanthropic myself tonight.


Unknown said...

Did the board actually fail to endorse the Ocean Ave improvements? That is just bonkers. There was a reason it was unanimously endorsed by the transportation committee. Danny G also spoke for the plan, right?

Dave 'Paco' Abraham said...

Thanks for the report. This is painfully sad to read. I barely know Pearl yet as I'm less than a year into the community but know she knows her stuff regardless of personality issues. Is DOT going to fold up and now nix their designs for Empire Blvd or will they proceed w/o the CB approval, which is only advisory to begin with.

MikeF said...

Somewhat-as-they-occurred, I posted my impressions of the mtg last night:

Alex said...

Tim, is there anything that we can do as a community to encourage DOT to proceed with these projects despite CB9's outrageously poor performance? Please advise - our neighborhood cannot afford to turn down these resources.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

DOT was asking for a letter of recommendation about the design. I don't think the project is in any jeopardy. I sincerely hope that last night's performance was grandstanding, because you're right, this is an incredibly important improvement that comes around once in decades.

Alex said...

Phew. Thank you for clarifying.

Who is appointing these Luddites to the board, anyways? It's like having creationists set scientific standards.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

It's no secret, Alex. These are primarily Eric Adams folks. Remember, I was just recently reappointed by...Mathieu Eugene. At least that's what it said in the letter. Hilarious. And they're lovely people for the most part. A lot of these appointments were made with the clear intention of getting Jake Goldstein out, and then Pearl. What's next? Remains to be seen.

The Luddites, as you call them, are in some ways a dying breed. Literally. There will be a new realization with the next generation that we can't continue to cow to the the car crowd indefinitely. There is simply not space for everyone to drive and park. And thereby become overcome by road rage, which quite literally pours from their pores as they rabidly decry the meddling DOT.

Bob Marvin said...

A pity about Pearl Miles, but I agree that the courts will probably order her reinstatement. FWIW (unless rules have changed drastically since I retired from City government) employees in Noncompetitive Class titles like District Manager can be terminated without any stated reason, BUT CB9 HAS given a whole list of [IMO generally spurious] reasons, thus stigmatizing Ms. Miles and giving her an ample basis for a successful lawsuit.

bored at work said...

I know Pearl well from years of working with her on a variety of issues. I enjoyed almost all of my interactions with her at the board. And she clearly knows her stuff. Your description of her seems spot on.

But New York, like most other States provides for employment at will. As long as she is not protected by a union, the Board and the City can fire her for any reason, or no reason, as long as that reason is not discriminatory. It is very hard to prove an age discrimination suit, especially here, as there will be no way to show a pattern at a place like the board with so few employees. And I doubt the Board was stupid enough (but maybe I give them too much credit) for saying or writing that she was fired for being old, or a minority, etc.

Good luck to CB9. It will need it.

Seth said...

Since Pearl is a public employee, there are a lot more rules and regulations regarding a termination. The executive committee would have to very carefully dot all the i's and cross all the t's so to speak before dismissing her.

Based on what I've read and hear, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't do that and did not follow proper procedures. So while I don't think Pearl has much of a case in arguing age discrimination or being fired for having cooties or whatever their reason was, she will probably be able to show they failed to follow the law in firing her.

I would not bet against her lawsuit.

Jacob said...

"Most cyclists are working-class immigrants, not hipsters"

Unknown said...

Tim, agree that you and 6 others voted no. There was a broad level of support from all coalitions, may be it's time to start listening to others opinions.

cali said...

TIM i think its important that DOT goes through with the measures. I wish I knew that they were presenting it yesterday as I wouldve cancelled my plans and went to support. Please keep us posted on this and the next time any DOT plan is put before the board, let us know. Ill try to rally some street safety advocates to come and support. Dave Paco too!

Anonymous said...

If there is any truth in your observations of this non functioning Community Board, residents of the district are being poorly served by the volunteers on the Board. I wonder if these Board members will appoint a political hack as District Manager. If they're in no hurry, perhaps they'll wait until Mathieu Eugene's term is over and hire him.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Warren: are you suggesting by saying I need to listen that I need to AGREE? That's absurd. And of COURSE I heard you. Does minority opinion mean wrong opinion?

For god sakes Warren I listen to everything you say, and generally give you the benefit of the doubt. But give me the opportunity to have my own opinions, please? If you feel the need to go on about your reasons for getting the Fire Pearl ball in motion, by all means send me your story and I'll publish it without critique. We agree on a lot, you know that. And I respect your opinion. I really do.

But in this case, I think you and the Exec handled it all wrong, wrote a letter you could drive a truck through, and left us open to a costly and damning lawsuit. You may think this is over; my considerable gut tells me otherwise.

And had anyone on the Board asked, I would've told 'em. Get a better lawyer. That dismissal rationale note was comically under-supported. When all of Pearl's fans in City Government come to her aid, I hope the Board will have a proper rebuttal. Foul language? Facebook post? Yelling shut up at a lady who dogged her and screamed at and harassed her? No warning to her on her behavior? Canning a 66 year old lady after 30-plus years of working hard and doing unpaid overtime? Claiming she's out of touch with the neighborhood when she knows practically everyone in the nabe by name and face? I've learned most of the deep stuff about then neighborhood from Pearl, because she knows her shit. Most damning, if you get the right judge, would be the obvious political shakeup of the last couple years. I imagine a bold face name or two might get red faced, if not served.

So, my opinion, involves not just listening to you. Which I did. But also a careful analysis of the pros and cons of canning Pearl NOW. In this way. With so little backup. Hell, someone probably could have asked her to consider retiring before this. In private. Say "you know the political winds have changed and this could get ugly. If you make some sort of statement on your retirement date maybe you can start training someone of our mutual liking now." She could have said no. But was she given the decency of the option?

See. Nobody asked. So now I'm telling you what I think YOU and others needed to here. And frankly, no one listens to me anyway. I don't think I've won a single vote in the last two years.

We disagree on this one. Not because I think Pearl is such a warm and cuddly person. But last night was no crowning achievement in the annals of city government. May the search committee find someone who has ALL the talents and the customer service. Sadly, s/he won't have one of the toughest, smartest DM's to train with.

Seth said...

I left a comment here but it didn't seem to go through. Anyway, I had posted very similarly to Bob Marvin. I wouldn't have bet against Pearl as I am guessing the executive committee did not take proper precautions to protect against legal action in her dismissal. It's a common mistake.

But the lawsuit that Pearl has filed charging age discrimination is not well thought either. It seems like this was prepared before she was even fired. She probably has procedural issues she can sue about but proving ageism?

Both sides seem to be making bad judgment calls if you ask me...

Unknown said...

Tim, thank you for your 1000 word response. Pearl has crcumvented the community board opportunity to represent the community and has violated her fudicary responsibilities.
You seem to gloss over that point. Let's move on and "do" instead of pontificating.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Those two claims you made need to be stated in the dismissal letter. And she should've had a chance to respond. "Circumvent" and "violated" were mentioned.

Bob Marvin said...

Like Seth I was surprised that Pearl chose to use age discrimination as the basis of her lawsuit, rather than the merits of the questionable "charges' alleged by the board. However I'm not a lawyer, just a retired City HR manager, and the claim Pearl is making might be easier to prove. The board seems to have given her plenty of ammunition for either approach.

Alex said...

I think the city should get rid of community boards, frankly. In the age in which data are readily available for city planners, DOT, etc, it seems like changes are coming from the top down, anyways, and it's probably better that way. We have representative democracy through our elected leaders, we don't need a bunch of petty appointees (no offense, Tim!!) getting in the way of improvements that most of the district feels we need. I've yet to see an infrastructure project put into place that originated from a CB request (correct me here). If it weren't for the CB getting in the way, DCP would have rezoned our area for the better by now. We might even have a slow zone in place on some of our speediest blocks.

I know that it isn't polite to refer to a group of people as Luddites, which I've done repeatedly, but I can't think of a better description.

Bob Marvin said...

"New York, like most other States provides for employment at will"

Not really true "bored at work"; there is the little matter of §75 of the Civil Service Law, which applies whether or not an employee is covered by a union.

Seth said...

Employment at will mostly applies to private companies. Bob is the expert though.

bored at work said...

@ Bob Marvin @ Seth

If, as seems true a District Manager is a non-competitive management employee, it appears that Section 75 might not apply. See here from the CSEA manual:

And the pertinent section:

C. Noncompetitive with five years of service:
Employees within the non-competitive class who are tenured
with at least five years of continuous uninterrupted service, and
who are not designated as management/confidential employees,
are covered.

At a minimum CB 9 was incredibly sloppy and stupid. If Section 75 applies, then she can only have been dismissed for misconduct or incompetence. And then they were beyond sloppy and stupid.

Bob Marvin said...

That is so, "bored at work", as relates to NC titles. And I applaud your attention to obscure Civil Service regulations. I was replying to your statement about "employment at will" which doesn't apply to MOST New York City (or State) employees, since they are in competitive-class titles. Fortunately I was seldom called on to draw up charges under §75, but I did so enough to know that terminating a permanent employee, while possible, is no easy process and you really need sufficient cause.

Bob Marvin said...

As to your statement about CB 9 having been "incredibly sloppy and stupid", as a former member of that august body I can only ask "what else is new?" :-)