CB 9 votes new slate of officers to board

By Sarina Trangle

Community Board 9 unanimously elected Ralph Gonzalez its new chairman Tuesday.

Gonzalez, an Ozone Park resident, received the board’s backing after current CB 9 Chairman James Coccovillo nominated him.

He and a new slate of executive members will assume their positions at the April meeting.

Several CB 9 members praised Gonzalez throughout the remainder of the meeting and walked over to his seat to congratulate him with hugs and handshakes.

Coccovillo said he considered his year at the helm of the board an honor, despite disputes breaking out among CB 9 members.

“I am very honored and privileged to have held this position for a year even with the issues that came about,” Coccovillo said. “I also want to thank the board for their decision to bring forth a number of things that made us a better board.”

Coccovillo presided over a few public spats. This winter the board voted to retain Sam Esposito, a longtime member, after he was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks to three board members. The three board members requested Esposito’s removal because they said he sent an e-mail criticizing them for complaining that food served at a meeting was “not kosher enough.”

Esposito retained his seat and has since been indicted in the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation of Social Security disability benefits fraud among retired police officers and firefighters. Esposito pleaded not guilty.

His case did not come up at the March meeting.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, District Manager Mary Ann Carey said she felt harassed by Coccovillo following a poor performance review. By the February meeting, she and Coccovillo said they had reached a resolution.

Gonzalez, who heads a nonprofit that produces television shows promoting behavioral health awareness, said he was pleased to receive such widespread support.

The incoming chairman said he did not have plans to focus on specific issues, proposals or topics.

“For me, the whole goal of all of this is going to be brought by the members and what they focus on,” Gonzalez said. “Every committee has its focus.”

The board elected Raj Rampershad, of Richmond Hill, first vice chairman; J. Richard Smith, of Woodhaven, second vice chairman; and Marie Turley, of Kew Gardens, executive secretary.

Come April, CB 9’s makeup will be further altered by the resignation of longtime member Anton Dietrich, of Richmond Hill.

Coccovillo proposed making Dietrich a CB 9 member emeritus to a round of applause.

“I say that we should accept Anton Dietrich as a member of CB 9 forever and ever,” Coccovillo said. “Anytime Anton walks through the door at our board meetings, he’s got a chair next to me.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.