If ever there was a good time to attend an organizational meeting, it’s when an organization’s leadership decides to make structural changes in its governance.
The proposed changes are causing several members in the community to become angered.
(But the upside of tempers flaring, is that it brings attention to, and renews interest in, an important local organization, GWAPP.)
The upcoming meeting also promises to offer an opportunity for organization members to ask questions and to dispel rumors.
Originally a consortium representing 40 local organizations, GWAPP (Greenpoint/Williamsburg Against Power Plants) — was founded in 2000 to address a proposed 500-megawatt power plant to be located on Greenpoint’s East River waterfront.
GWAPP was successful in defeating the project.
Since then GWAPP (now Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning) has broadened their scope to “monitoring and advocating for community planning and open space resources on the Greenpoint waterfront” — but according to former members, GWAPP has not held member organization meetings or elections for board members in more than five years.
GWAPP has earned a reputation as an influential organization. “Politicians and government agencies listen to them,” said Mike Hofmann, a one-time board member. GWAPP has also has received government funding for several projects, including development of their website.
(In fact, visit GWAPP.org – it’s an excellent website, and a great resource.)
GWAPP is known for having been an outspoken advocate for the community during the 2005 rezoning. GWAPP, along with the Trust for Public Land, and the Regional Planning Association, worked together on the comprehensive waterfront plan to create more parks along the waterfront than were proposed; they are active in OUTRAGE; and were early supporters of the Newtown Creek Alliance.
But times have changed, say the present directors, and the organization needs to adapt a to a current environment: “[GWAPP] was built around a siege mentality to fight a huge enemy — two proposed power plants. GWAPP rallied on a level one can’t imagine now,” said Dewey Thompson, Board of Directors, co-chair.
The flipside is the concern of several former board members, that the groups’ mandate of annual board elections and member representative elections have been ignored for several years, that public meetings have also fallen off, and that a hand-picked, new board will be representing the community in GWAPP’s name. “They will in essence be using GWAPP’s influence and clout with no community participation or accountability as per GWAPP’s reputation and original mission,” said a community member who didn’t want to be identified.
But Dewey Thompson — with Christine Holowacz (Board of Directors co-chairs) who are on the receiving end of complaints — is caught off guard by the sudden attacks. “My biggest crime is volunteering my time too much,” he said, also adding, “there’s a misperception that organizations exist at the whim of community input. To set up meetings takes a lot of energy and incredible amount of time. Those people who will want to participate will actually need to commit themselves to this work, and be a part of it, and open to that kind of participation.”
This governance issue, he said, is to change bylaws so there are no longer membership organizations—he indicated that many are no longer active, and that the particular politics that brought them together aren’t relevant anymore.
“We are asking them to now amend those laws, so we can operate the board the way we are doing it now.”
In response to the notion that it would exclude public participation, he said:
“We expect the nominating committee to do outreach and find people interested in the committee. We are not beating people away from GWAPP. We are very well known — anyone can have easy access to the board. We’re totally open to meeting new people and hoping we find new blood. We are hoping to refresh the governance, get a new board, and a new set of bylaws, for what we think is a very vital organization.”
“There are things we are eager to clear up,” he said.
GWAPP To Change Board Structure and Amend Organizational Bylaws @ March 5th Meeting / 7PM @ Warsaw, open to the public.
Here is a list of the membership that appears on their website and letterhead (note: a number of the organizations are no longer active.)
Brooklyn Legal Services, Corporation A
Brooklyn Lighthouse Community Church
Buckminster Fuller Institute
Church of the Ascension
Congregation Ahavas Israel
Dupont Street HDFC
GCU Lodge #1
Greenpoint Ave/West St Block Association
Greenpoint Civic Council
Greenpoint Property Owners Inc.
Greenpoint Reformed Church
Greenpoint Renaissance Society
Greenpoint Video Project
Greenpoint/Williamsburg Youth Soccer League
Huron Street Block Association
Independent Friends of McCarren Park, Inc.
India Street Block Association
John Smolenski Memorial Democratic Club
Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG)
North Brooklyn Boat Club
North Brooklyn Development Corporation
North Greenpoint Neighbors for Environmental Justice
Oak Street Block Association
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
People’s Firehouse, Inc.
Polish American Folk Dance Co.
Polish National Home
Polish Veterans Ladies Auxiliary
PSC Community Services, Inc.
River Charter School
St. Anthony’s/St. Alphonsas Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Vincent DePaul Society/St. Anthony’s of Padua