By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
Mandingo Tshaka, an outspoken southern Bayside activist and former member of Community Board 11, said Friday he will rejoin the community board for his third term.
Tshaka, 72, applied for the position after several vacancies came up on the board, which covers Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Hollis Hills and Oakland Gardens.
“Apathy is the death of any community,” said Tshaka, whose causes have included protecting his neighborhood from the ill effects of zoning variances and water main reconstruction, and advocating the restoration of Martins Field as a cemetery.
“I don’t feel there are any strong voices really advocating for this community,” said Tshaka.
Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece would not confirm or deny Tshaka’s appointment because he said not all of the appointees had been notified yet.
But he did say the five or six new appointees, to be announced at the board’s next meeting April 7, consisted of “a couple of old-timers and a couple of new faces. It’ll be interesting.”
Tshaka, a former Broadway performer, first joined the board in 1976. He was term-limited in the mid-1980s but former Borough President Donald Manes refused to reappoint him, Tshaka said, because the activist knew of a conflict of interest between Manes and a car dealership seeking a controversial zoning variance.
Tshaka was reappointed by former Borough President Claire Shulman and served until the late 1980s, when he said he was removed from the board for absenteeism.
Tshaka said he was unable to attend the board meetings, held in those days at PS 162, because he had received death threats as a result of his fight against drug dealers in his neighborhood and felt unsafe walking to the meetings.
“The audience was jam-packed to see what the hell I was doing,” said Tshaka of his days on the community board. “You never saw anything like it.”
The veteran of many zoning battles involving car dealerships in Bayside’s ethnically diverse enclave of Clear Spring said the board under former Chairman Bernard Haber had issued too many variances for them.
“The big problem for us is variances,” said Tshaka of his priorities upon rejoining the board. “There has not been a strong voice to speak out.”
Tshaka, who in the past has accused the mostly white board of racism in how it handles zoning decisions, said last week CB 11 needed more people of color on it.
But he added, “you can’t blame the community board if the African-American community doesn’t ask to get on the board.”
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.