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Queens Chronicle

CB 9 personnel issue gets heated

Debate over DM Mary Ann Carey ties up business at Tuesday’s meeting

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Thu Sep 19, 2013.

The first meeting of Community Board 9 after the summer picked up on the same tense, chaotic tone that it left off on in June.

The debate over the future of District Manager Mary Ann Carey dominated Tuesday night’s meeting in Richmond Hill, causing the board to descend into complete chaos multiple times as some members protested an evaluation on Carey’s performance that they said violated a resolution the board agreed to at its June meeting.

Before the summer, the board debated a proposal to remove Carey from her position due to inadequate work performance. After a marathon closed-door session, the board decided to keep Carey and put her on six-month’s probation set up an ad hoc committee to oversee it.

But some confusion over when that period starts — and an evaluation of Carey done last month — led CB 9 member Sam Esposito to ask if the resolution approved in June was being followed. Esposito came to the meeting with a copy of the evaluation, which other members did not have, and demanded the issue be discussed. The debate evolved into a shouting match between Esposito and Chairman Jim Cocovillo when Esposito made a motion to go into executive session, a debate that is closed to the public.

“This issue needs to be discussed,” Esposito demanded.

CB 9 member John Carter, who chairs the ad hoc committee dealing with Carey’s probation, sought to clear up some issues, but didn’t seem to help quiet the protests on the board. Esposito said he wanted to clarify confusion over Carey, including what the committee is doing and when the six-month probationary period begins, whether it was when the vote was taken in June or Aug. 30 when Carey received the evaluation.

“What we need is a clear idea of what we’re doing from someone whom we can trust,” Esposito said.

Carter said the committee was set up to discuss the terms of the probation and that it did not start in June.

After over a half hour of debate — which included a later-withdrawn motion to adjourn and a promise to revisit the issue in October — Cocovillo forced the meeting to move forward.

Besides revisiting the Carey issue, CB 9 decided to table a vote on proposed pedestrian plazas on 101st Avenue and Drew Street in City Line proposed by a Bangladeshi-American group.

Emily Weidenholf, project manager at the city Department of Transportation, said the plazas could be installed by the end of autumn if CB 9 approved them on Tuesday. Brooklyn Community Board 5, which includes East New York, has already given the plazas its OK.

But some on the board were skeptical about the plan, including Esposito, who noted there was green space just across the border in Brooklyn.

“You have a park that’s two blocks west of this location and it’s bigger than this location,” he said. “It would cost nothing to move this there.”

Some board members said they were concerned about the crime situation at the plazas, which sit in a community that for years was notorious for high crime. Weidenhof said the city has installed similar plazas in high-crime areas and it has had a positive effect.

“We have plazas in Brownsville, in East New York, in Bed-Stuy,” she said. “We find they have a good effect on neighborhoods.”

Richard Davis, a member of CB 9, said he was supportive of the plan.

“We have people who congregate and get together,” he said. “This would be a great addition to the neighborhood.”

Cocovillo said the board would vote on the plans at the October meeting. The project was brought before the executive committee in August. The DOT said the plazas would not be installed until the spring if CB 9 approves them next month.

Members also got a peek at the planned rezoning of Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill, which includes the 101st Avenue commercial strip and residential areas around City Line. Most of the rezoning is in Community Board 10, which saw the proposals in the spring.

Cocovillo said CB 9 would hold a public hearing and a vote on the proposal in October to allow the plan to be finalized by the end of the year.

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