Community Board 9’s first meeting of 2014 didn’t stray far from the issues that paralyzed the board last year.
During her monthly report at Tuesday’s session in Richmond Hill, District Manager Mary Ann Carey shocked some board members and many in the audience when she took a direct shot at CB 9’s chairman, Jim Coccovillo, who was absent from the meeting due to an illness. She said he often hangs around the board’s office in Borough Hall and is intimidating.
“The staff and I are harassed,” she said. “We fear for our jobs.”
Carey, who was targeted for removal by several board members last spring, also said that she failed an initial evaluation given by Coccovillo last year as part of a six-month probation period that was given to her when the board decided not to fire her as district manager in June.
That announcement led to a short, but spark-filled, discussion over when Carey’s probation actually started and why one was done already. According to the official schedule approved by the board, Carey’s six-month probation began Aug. 30 and is scheduled to end in March, but a three-month preliminary evaluation was called for, which Carey said she had not passed. The objection was brought up by Sam Esposito, who himself was targeted for removal from the board last fall over alleged anti-Semitic emails he sent to three now-ex-board members. Esposito said the issue was overblown and he was targeted for his support of Carey.
Some board members quietly squirmed in their chairs at Carey’s indictment of their chairman and a number later said they found it offensive that she had lashed out at him while he was not present.
When contacted for a response Wednesday, Coccovillo was surprised by Carey’s remarks and noted that he had not been in the office very often recently due to personal issues and the holidays, but reserved the right to do so as chairman.
“I’m really under the impression that I have a very good rapport with the office,” he said. “I really don’t understand her remarks. Mary Ann has been a fantastic district manager for years and years. All I’ve been trying to do is modernize the office and make it more technologically-savvy.”
At the meeting, First Vice Chairman Ivan Mrakovcic, who was acting as chairman in Coccovillo’s absence, quickly gaveled for the meeting to move forward, but not without making a point about the board’s ongoing internal strife.
“We should keep our internal matters out of the public realm,” he said, noting that the strife within the board has gotten out of hand over the last year. “In the private sector, where I work, this would never be allowed. Hopefully, we won’t have this in 2014.”
But several board members said after the meeting that they expect the Carey issue to resurface in March when her six-month probationary period is up.
“There are some who are itching to get rid of her,” one member said. “It doesn’t matter how she’s evaluated, there is still going to be a fight.”
In the meantime, the board did manage to vote on a number of liquor licenses Tuesday night, including at three controversial locations. The first was an on-premises liquor license for Fusion NYC Inc., a restaurant located at 124-12 101 Ave. in Richmond Hill. A representative of the owners at the meeting noted that the hall had been called Crystal Palace, but merged with Fusion NYC and kept its name. He also said the location was wrongly singled out as a site of criminal problems — usually something that pushes CB 9 to disapprove a license — because the location that had the problems had a similar name and was also located within the CB 9 area. The board unanimously approved the license.
A second license for a billiards hall called El Rey at 75-16 Rockaway Blvd. in Woodhaven was disapproved unanimously after a number of residents from the area came to the meeting to complain about problems at the location under past ownership, though community affairs officers from the 102nd Precinct said it hadn’t been a problem recently.
Woodhaven member Alexander Blenkinsopp confirmed the location hadn’t had issues for a few years, but there were concerns that the issues would manifest itself again if the hall got a liquor license.
The third liquor license was a cabaret license for Maracas Club at 121-08 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill. The owners of the club said they had only reapplied for the license because they had to reincorporate as an LLC, but had been around for 20 years and there had been no reports of problems there.
But two board members, Blenkinsopp and Sylvia Hack, took issue with the location. Hack, who chairs the Land Use committee, said the area, which is heavily residential, was no place for a club with a cabaret license. Blenkinsopp pointed out that Maracas was the location where a cop who was later beaten almost to death a mile away on Liberty Avenue back in November first got into an altercation with his alleged attacker. He and Hack were among a handful of members to vote against the license, which was ultimately approved.
A police source later said that cops keep a close eye on the club during late nights.