Reseeding Community Roots: West Birchwood Civic Association reboots with new board

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West Birchwood is a Jericho community whose roots go back to 1960. And while this area consists of 800-plus homes that hover around the $1 million mark and more, the West Birchwood Civic Association’s engagement had petered out quite a bit over recent years. Paid membership that at one time was around 200 had dropped precipitously and neighborhood aesthetics ranging from damaged street signs and ragged landscaping had West Birchwood showing its age. That is until eight residents decided to reboot and relaunch the board about three months ago. The impetus to do this came when a group of like-minded residents that included future board member Mike Adrian decided that the only way to address a number of quality of life issues was to hit the reset button on the civic association with a more egalitarian approach being applied to the new model.

“The idea was to run the board as a complete board, where there is no president. Yes, we have a treasurer, but you have to have a treasurer and have someone responsible for that. But we are a majority-voted organization and there is no leading person,” Adrian explained.

Joining Adrian on the board are Keith Adwar, Marc Balizer, Paul Brzozowski, Jennifer Camhi, John Cun, Richard Hochman and Sal Karim, with the members looking to add a ninth member. Within the past three months, the current West Birchwood Civic Association (WBCA) had addressed a number of issues including hiring landscaper John Lobifaro to maintain sections around the three entrance signs (Saratoga Drive, Rockland Drive and the service road), as well as the sump area on Rockland and the entrance gate area to Cantiague Park on Rockland. New signage was also ordered for the two stone walls at the entrances off Rockland and Saratoga that had letters stolen as a result of its inclusion on a scavenger hunt list from a Jericho road rally a few years back. Adrian said that these long overdue projects were part of a new WBCA philosophy that also hinged on letting homeowners know where their membership dues were going.

“When the [new] board got together, I said the number one thing was to replace those signs. It’s terrible looking. We’re basically a $1 million home community—that’s what they’re getting up to and much higher. So that was disgusting looking. We have to impress everybody that we’re transparent—people were asking how much the signs were. Pay your dues and you’ll see the statements,” he said. “Signs have been ordered and they should be here in about two weeks. We did it the right way. We didn’t cheap out. We’re getting things done and people are noticing it.”

Current membership dues are $75 a year and there is also a separate beautification fund that can be found on the WBCA website, where residents can donate and get involved with upkeep that includes replacing trees and shrubbery. Trying to get everyone involved is one of this nonprofit organization’s greatest challenges, with the ultimate goal being the fostering of a community spirit that was briefly experienced during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“Our true goal when we first wanted this was that we hate that there isn’t a community feeling. When Hurricane Sandy came through, it did feel that way. People were out helping everyone. I turned to my wife and said while were going through something tragic, everyone was out helping and being nice,” Adrian recalled. “Neighbors that had lived next to each other for 20 or 30 years, talked to each other for the first time. We want that feeling again.”

Part of the community outreach will involve an upcoming Community BBQ and Town Hall that will be held on Sunday, June 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Station 2 of the Jericho Fire Department (JFD), located on Cantiague Rock Road. The WBCA will be co-hosting it with the JFD, which will be covering all the costs in accordance with the civic association’s bylaws that state no membership dues can be used for an event of this nature. Adrian sees this kind of bridge-building for such an integral part of the community as being a crucial and long-overdue overture. It’s a sentiment that Dr. Chris Foresto, captain of the firehouse, agrees with.

“I think it’s a really nice opportunity for them to work with us and for us to work with them,” Foresto said. “They benefit from the support of the fire department and we benefit from having open lines of communication with the civic association. Hopefully, people in West Birchwood recognize that this is their fire department and fire district and that we need their help and we welcome them to come down and see what it’s about. And if they think it’s for them, then they can fill out an application and hopefully join.”
For Adrian, he sees what the WBCA is doing as the first part of a new chapter for his organization.

“We’ve accomplished so much already in three months. There’s upkeep of the community and roadwork,” he said. “But projects we can handle on our own? Probably just community events to bring people closer. We’re doing the barbecue. We would love to have a July 4 get-together—more like street parties and things like that.”

Visit www.westbirchwood.org to find out more information about the West Birchwood Civic Association. Visit www.jerichofd.com to find out more about Jericho Fire Department Station 2.

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