The self-proclaimed “mayor of Kew Gardens Hills” may soon be ousted from Community Board 8 after posting online memes containing racial slurs and a cartoon parody in blackface.
Councilman Rory Lancman decided to block the reappointment of longtime board member Mike Sidell, 73, after community members objected to two posts on Sidell’s personal Facebook page.
In one of the posts, Sidell uploaded a collection of images containing racially offensive language, accompanied by a caption indicating that he had put up the photos in response to online criticisms of the Academy Awards choice of only white actors for main acting categories in 2016.
“These reprehensible remarks have no place in our community, let alone coming from the mouth of a community leader,” Lancman said.
Over the course of several conversations with QNS, Sidell said he believed that other, less severe disciplinary actions would have been more appropriate for the situation. According to Sidell, many members of the community have expressed support for his reappointment, although some have told him it was a bad idea to share the images where others could see them.
“It’s out of proportion. I’ve been on the community board for 18 years,” Sidell said, later adding that it “wasn’t meant to be intentional. It was a parody.”
Sidell has since apologized on his Facebook page stating (sic): “Queens I am NOT A RACIST MY family IS multi cultural […] So please forgive me i am human and am man enough to say IM SORRY.” However, Lancman shows no sign of reversing his decision.
“Yeah, it’s a free country and Mike’s not going to jail for posting racist Facebook comments,” Lancman told QNS. “But being on a community board isn’t a right; it’s a privilege that comes with the responsibility of conducting yourself as a leader.”
Borough President Melinda Katz officially appoints all members of the board, with half the members recommended by City Council members and the other half chosen by her office. A source says that although Sidell could be reappointed if chosen by Katz, it is unlikely that she would use one of her appointments to reinstate someone specifically barred from the board by a City Council member.
Sidell will sit on CB 8 until early April, when new members are appointed and returning members are reappointed for another term.
Lancman’s decision not to reappoint Sidell came after receiving complaints about the posts from Pomonok Residents Association through civic president Monica Corbett. Corbett — who also sits as a member of CB 8 — was originally hesitant to report the images but she ultimately made a complaint on behalf of a group of outraged Pomonok residents.
According to Sidell, he will be speaking tonight at Community Board 8 meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Hillcrest Jewish Center (183-02 Union Turnpike).