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Queens Chronicle

Queens Community Board 9 elects new leaders

Ralph Gonzalez picked as chairman as incumbent Coccovillo stands down

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Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:33 am, Thu Mar 20, 2014.

Community Board 9 elected a new slate of leaders on Tuesday night in Ozone Park in what ended up being a rather anticlimactic vote after weeks of rumors of a brawl between incumbent chairman Jim Coccovillo and his opposition on the board.

Coccovillo opted not to seek a second term as chairman, instead nominating Ralph Gonzalez of Ozone Park — whose name had been mentioned by several members as a potential opponent of Coccovillo’s. Gonzalez won the chairmanship unopposed. Raj Rampershad, the board’s executive secretary, was elected first vice chairman unopposed.

The race for second vice chairman and executive secretary went to a ballot. Three candidates were nominated for second vice chair — J. Richard Smith of Woodhaven, Marie Turley of Kew Gardens and Joseph Iaboni of Richmond Hill, a former chairman. Smith was elected with 25 votes to 11 for Turley and 8 for Iaboni.

Turley later emerged victorious as executive secretary, a race in which she squared off against Ivan Mrakovcic of Richmond Hill and Marian Molina of Woodhaven. Turley and Mrakovcic tied the first round, forcing a runoff between the two that Turley won 24-18 with 2 votes being declared void for not listing either name.

After the vote, Coccovillo, who has been chairman since last April and whose time wielding the gavel included turbulent debates over the future of District Manager Mary Ann Carey and board member Sam Esposito, reminisced on his term.

“I want to thank everyone for allowing me to serve as chairman for the last year,” he said. “Even though we had some tough moments, it has been a privilege to be chairman.”

Gonzalez thanked the board and said he looks forward to his term as chairman. The new leadership will take office on April 1.

Besides the elections, CB 9 also discussed a number of issues, most notably the collapsed building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven that crumbled 11 months ago and has still not been fixed or demolished. Ed Wendell, former president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, joined Patricia and Kelly Sexton, co-founder and member of the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps during the public forum to discuss the ruined building’s effects on the ambulance corps headquarters next door. The collapse damaged the corps building and melting snow late last month caused leaks that forced the corps to abandon the building altogether. The Woodhaven Senior Center, whose rent was a major source of revenue for the corps, was also relocated and the corps’ future is in jeopardy.

“What we’re asking is for the board’s support in helping us,” Kelly Sexton said.

A permit issued for work on the site has been posted on the scaffolding that surrounds the building.

Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, which has jurisdiction over the site, complained that the city has moved at a snail’s pace on the issue.

“We are asking them to tear it down,” Thomson said. “This has gone on long enough.”

Also during the meeting, approval of a liquor license for a new restaurant called La Cabana de San Cecilio at 102-24 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill led to a discussion over whether or not the strip in Richmond Hill has too many bars already.

“The area is very saturated with bars and nightclubs,” Thomson said.

At issue was whether or not the liquor license would be legal as there were several others in the area that have them, and it could violate state liquor laws to have so many close together. But Coccovillo, a former chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said it would be legal if the bars have only beer and wine licenses and not those for full bars as many on Jamaica Avenue do.

Another issue was brought up: whether restaurants and bars were moonlighting as nightclubs, a common problem along Jamaica Avenue, according to some members.

“I know for a fact that these bars and restaurant close and then open up as discos,” said Esposito.

Some of the patrons of those nightclubs have been involved in criminal activity in the neighborhood, including at least two murders — one in 2011 and one in 2013 — several brawls and other quality-of-life issues, including urinating in front lawns of homes.

In the end the board turned down the liquor license for La Cabana de San Cecilio by a vote of 23-19. Thomson suggested the board should provide the 102nd Precinct with a list of bars’ closing times so police can enforce the licenses, a suggestion Coccovillo said would be a waste of time as they are already provided with that information for problem locations.

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