Not everyone on CB8 happy to have Moerdler back

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Charles Moerdler returned to his job as chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee Monday night as if he never left.

The journey to get back there, however, was not as smooth as it appeared.

Moerdler abruptly quit the land use committee during a regular CB8 board meeting in April over how the city should handle alleged permit violations at a home on Scenic Place. While Moerdler was fine with allowing the work on the property to be completed and deal with the violations later, CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty was adamant the board push for violations now before approving anything.

The result was Moerdler feeling he was blindsided by the board, prompting him to step down.

Moerdler’s exile barely lasted 10 days, however, with him telling Ginty he was rescinding his resignation.

Getting Moerdler back in his job as land use chair — especially with the high-profile Hebrew Home at Riverdale expansion hearings on the horizon — wasn’t that simple, it seems.

Because Moerdler’s resignation was immediate, he couldn’t just take it back, Ginty told members of CB8’s executive committee last week. He certainly could submit his name to become chair in the next fiscal year after the summer, but coming back for the May and June meetings would require a little more maneuvering.

“We found a path in the bylaws that make perfect sense,” Ginty said. “With resignations ... if it’s immediate, there’s nothing in the bylaws that can undo it. But the bylaws do give authority to the chair of the board to appoint someone ad hoc. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m appointing Chuck Moerdler chair of the land use committee.”

But some members of the executive committee — which typically consists of officers and chairs of the various CB8 committees — wanted to share their thoughts about some of the criticism about the board Moerdler offered to local outlets like The Riverdale Press after his resignation.

Bob Bender, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, said Moerdler had every chance to express any grievances he had with the board to the board — if only he attended more executive committee meetings.

He suggested Ginty, who spent much of her career working for the city, would have been more than qualified to take on the land use committee if Moerdler had not returned.

“No one is indispensable,” Bender said.

But experience and longevity do have a place in the advisory body, said Martin Wolpoff, who chairs CB8’s ethics committee. 

“No one has served this board longer and better than the chair of land use,” he said of Moerdler. “We should be thrilled that someone with the background and experience he has has positively done this for four or five decades.”

Moerdler complained to The Press in mid-April that CB8 was focusing too much on areas it can’t fix, rather than concentrating on areas it could.

“It’s got to stop,” Moerdler said at the time. “I’ve been saying it for a while, and it just goes in one ear and out the other. We owe a duty to this community to achieve for them, and if all we’re doing is voting something that we know is going to have no effect at all — no positive effect — we’ll get into trouble.”

Yet, CB8 vice chair Paul Ellis told the executive committee he never heard that kind of criticism from anyone else.

“If I had heard the sort of strongly worded concerns that we were wasting our time, I would’ve taken that seriously,” Ellis said. “I was troubled to first learn about them in The Riverdale Press article. That’s not the first place I expected to hear about it.”

Moerdler sat quietly through the entire discussion, listening intently but never speaking up. Also not saying anything was Ginty herself, who said she opened the floor for discussion because some executive committee members had asked to speak up.

Former board chair Dan Padernacht was not happy about some of the criticism levied at Moerdler.

“Whatever happened in the last few weeks, he doesn’t deserve what’s happening here this evening,” Padernacht said. 

But Lisa Daub, chair of the board’s aging committee, felt a lot of what was said would have worked a lot better in a less public forum.

“People can do great work, and people also can make errors,” Daub said. “I just wish it wasn’t put in the local newspaper.”

CB8’s officers, led by Ginty, published a letter in the April 26 edition of The Press saying the criticism Moerdler offered was not truthful, and it ignored all the good things the board has done.

“These comments are a disservice to the board and its members who work tirelessly and give of their time, experience, expertise and judgment to the issues facing our community,” according to the letter.

In response, Moerdler agreed the board has indeed done positive things. But at the same time, it shouldn’t blind them on areas where they can improve.

“In my view, that stellar record of accomplishment can only be enhanced by an even greater focus on changing those things that realistically can be changed and merit change,” Moerdler said, “and preserving those things vital to our community that warrant preservation.”

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