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New civic holds first meeting; takes jabs at former group

That’s how Manhattan Beach feels this week after the first meeting of the newly formed Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA) convened at P.S. 195 on Monday night.

Publicly, the leadership of the breakaway civic and its parent organization, the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG), say that the two bodies can mutually coexist for the overall benefit of the entire neighborhood.

By Joe Maniscalco

Crowded…very, very crowded.

That's how Manhattan Beach feels this week after the first meeting of the newly formed Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA) convened at P.S. 195 on Monday night.

Publicly, the leadership of the breakaway civic and its parent organization, the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG), say that the two bodies can mutually coexist for the overall benefit of the entire neighborhood.

But the likelihood that the groups will be pitching in for a joint volunteer cleanup and singing “Kumbaya” together anytime soon appears remote as the still-smarting members of the MBCG's board of directors took turns swiping at their former comrades.

Few seats in the school's auditorium sat vacant as MBNA President Alan Ditchek thanked the group's “special adviser” Sheila Nelson and MBCG President Ira Zalcman for “dismissing” him as the chair of the group's education committee.

“That was the catalyst” for forming the new group, Ditchek declared before touting his 50-plus years as a resident of Manhattan Beach.

The recently-crowned president of the MBNA said that all were welcome to join his group free of “cliques,” “secret deals” and “verbal intimidation like other organizations.”

Councilmember Mike Nelson – accompanied by a full staff and a mess of food for the “collation” to follow the close of the inaugural meeting – swore in the MBNA's board of directors.

The 13 officers represented a mix of disaffected MBCG members and homeowners interested in altering zoning rules in the neighborhood.

That hot-button issue was deferred however for the time being.

P.S. 195 Principal Arthur Forman provided the most eye-opening spectacle of the night delivering a full rendition of Mr. Rogers' “These are the People in Your Neighborhood.”

When asked who was footing the bill for the use of the auditorium he said, “These people are my guests tonight. I'm extending myself as a private citizen.”

Nelson said that the MBCG's decision not to reappoint Ditchek and others like Al Smaldone – who referred to himself as one of the “victims” of the MBCG – to their former committee posts had sent a “chilly message that there was to be no working together.”

Indeed, there seems to be no shortage of areas of conflict where the MBCG and the MBNA could end up stepping on each other's toes – from local beautification efforts to the flashing traffic light at Ocean Avenue and Oriental Boulevard the MBCG lobbied for a few years ago and on Monday night was denigrated as a “railroad signal.”

Questions also surround the Beachside Neighborhood Patrol which exists as a separate entity, according to coordinator Albert Hasson, but serves dues-paying members in both groups.

Edmond Dweck, MBNA secretary and chair of the Public Relations Committee, said that the new group was formed on “tremendous family values.”

Despite a public spat with the MBCG's leadership, Nelson insisted that he would attend future meetings of both Manhattan Beach civic groups “as much as my schedule will permit.”

The next meeting of the MBNA will be at 8 p.m. on May 5, at P.S. 195. The guest speaker will be Chief Joe Fox of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.

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