By Carol Tannenhauser
Another member of the Upper West Side Coalition of Block Associations and Community Groups submitted a resignation letter on Monday — and she didn’t mince words.
“I would like to make our reasons for withdrawl crystal clear, as they are very serious ones,” wrote Katina Ellison, co-coordinator of the West 71st Street Block Association, which became the fifth group to leave the Coalition since June 22.
“Non-inclusive, exclusionary tactics,” as well as “the feeling that the Coalition is run by white property owners bent on protecting the value of their property by excluding ‘undesirable elements’ from the community. Female voices not respected. The Coalition not carrying out its mission as stated in the by-laws.”
The UWS Coalition was founded in May, 2021, more than a year into the COVID pandemic. A dozen community groups had bonded over Zoom during that lost year, lending each other support and advice. They formed a 501c4 — a nonprofit — with the stated mission, WSR reported at the time, to support and connect the many existing block associations and community groups on the Upper West Side, and to foster the creation of new ones.
“I provided a lot of ideas on how we might help new and existing block associations to form and thrive, but the Coalition seemed bent on simply holding forums with information easily available elsewhere, instead of focusing on our mission,” Ellison wrote.
Steven Anderson, current president of the Coalition, wrote the following in response to Ellison’s letter: “The UWS Coalition regrets that another member has not only decided to resign, but to use their resignation as an opportunity to publicly defame an organization comprised of UWS citizens with diverse voices.”
Anderson defended the Coalition’s membership, saying it “includes a spectrum of renters, shareholders, families, and individuals of all ages and races who have differing opinions about the challenges facing our neighborhood.” According to Anderson, the Coalition does not “try to reshape these diverse voices into a homogenous worldview shared by a subset of members. We will continue to provide a town square that welcomes all points of view.”
Cynthia Tibbs, once the only Black member of the Coalition, but who also resigned on June 22, disagreed. “When I was first asked by Chris Giordano [one of the founders of the organization who has now also resigned] to join the Coalition I was hopeful that it would be a way of bringing the NYCHA [public housing] community together with the coalition, unfortunately I have been met with a overwhelming amount of backlash,” she emailed WSR shortly after her resignation.
Both her raised hand and the opinions she did get to offer were ignored, said Tibbs, who also charged that a board member screamed at her in a Zoom meeting discussion concerning a dispute between two members.
While Anderson’s email to the Rag defended the Coalition against charges of exclusionary tactics, he said he reserved further comment for a later “opportunity for the Coalition to share its perspective on the issues of the day and how we seek to contribute to our community.”
Editors note: The fact of Chris Giordano’s resignation from the Coalition was added after publication, to clarify his role and current status.