New Chair Elected In Ozone Pk.
After a tumultuous year, Community Board 9 unanimously changed its leadership during its meeting last Tuesday, Mar. 11, at Ozone Park’s Majestic Marquis.
Board members voted in Ralph Gonzalez as their new chairperson, replacing James Coccovillo, who declined to seek a second term. The board also elected Raj Rampershad as first vice chairperson; J. Richard Smith as second vice chairperson; and Marie Turley as executive secretary.
The new slate officially takes office on Apr. 1, and it was hoped by many observers their term will be less stressing than the previous year.
Board 9 experienced internal strife repeatedly in the last 12 months. In June, Coccovillo and a slate of colleagues unsuccessfully tried to oust District Manager Mary Ann Carey from her position after she rebuffed retirement calls; she was instead placed on six months’ probation.
Three board members resigned in November after the board declined to remove Sam Esposito for remarks he made in an internal email that some found to be anti-Semitic. Esposito wound up in handcuffs last month after being connected to a massive disability fraud scheme.
At Board 9’s January meeting, Carey-while Coccovillo was absent-publicly charged that the chairperson had harassed her and the board staff. Carey apologized at the February session, and she and Coccovillo pledged to patch things up and move forward.
Instead of seeking a second term as chairperson, however, Coccovillo nominated Gonzalez to succeed him last Tuesday. Fellow board members unanimously agreed with their votes.
Gonzalez has never previously served as chairperson. He has been a member of the board for seven years and a one-time chair of the health committee.
In an email regarding his new post, Gonzalez stated he would “use my experience in non profit management to work with my board colleagues to manage the issues brought forward to the board by the members of the community at large.”
He also said he wants to work closely with elected officials and community organizations to strengthen communication. “In addition we will nurture the communication between legislators, agencies and the local communities.”
As for what he hopes to accomplish in his term at the helm, Gonzalez said, “On Apr. 1, the newly elected officers will take office along with their respective responsibilities. At that point we will review existing projects and issues in order to develop an appropriate plan of action.”
Police Officers Brendan Noonan and Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit updated members and residents on crime in their area.
They emphasized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan to the group which seeks to eliminate traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the city.
Explaining the initiative, Severino told the group that traffic safety is not a one-way street.
“It’s the responsibility of drivers and everyone to keep the streets safe. It has a lot to do with the safety of pedestrians, but they need to know they have a role too.”
He went on to urge everyone to keep safe and mind their surroundings when walking through the city.
“A lot of people just have their heads in their smart phones or tablet computers or whatever,” he said. “It’s very important to make sure you are watching where you are walking, because anything can happen.”
The officers also announced the 102nd Precinct will be holding a youth summit to help at-risk youth in the community by having local leaders and other role models relate to young people in the area.
Community Board 9 generally meets on the second Tuesday each month at locations around Kew Gardens, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. For further information, call 1-718-286-2686.