Community Board 7 will set a historic precedent if the board votes in favor to remove board member and City Council candidate John Choe due to allegations of misconduct.
The Executive Committee of Community Board 7 — which covers the neighborhoods of Bay Terrace College Point, Beechhurst, Flushing, Malba, Queensboro Hill, Whitestone and Willets Point — notified Choe of five allegations against him that were filed by CB 7 First Vice Chair and Chair of the Land Use Committee Chuck Apelian.
According to CB 7 Chair Eugene Kelty, if two-thirds of the full board vote to proceed on June 14, he will appoint a special committee of five board members. The committee will then hear the charges as well as testimony from Choe and Apelian. After the committee makes its recommendation, a simple majority vote will be held with the full board to decide whether Choe will be removed from the board.
“He doesn’t listen to the chair of the board and I’m getting tired of fighting with him,” Kelty said. “If you’re not listening to the chair of the board, then that’s really a problem for me. He’s gotten up and left meetings, and that’s a tough thing to run an organization, when you show up and take attendance that you’re here, and then leave for the rest of the meeting.”
Choe, who is running for office to represent Council District 20, was re-appointed to CB 7 by Borough President Donovan Richards, although he did not receive a recommendation from Councilman Koo, according to Kelty. Although Kelty spoke with the borough president’s representative regarding concerns about Choe, Kelty said the borough president still chose to re-appoint Choe and two other people on the board, while removing two other board members.
In a statement to QNS, a spokesperson for the Queens borough president’s office said they “will let this process unfold and not interfere.”
The Queens Daily Eagle first reported and QNS confirmed that on May 26, Choe received the formal written notice from Kelty stating that the board would consider a motion to initiate removal proceedings at its next meeting on June 14. The notice came just eight days before the primary election.
Choe’s campaign said the executive committee is citing allegations that are “funhouse mirror images” of his criticism of the board’s pro-development leadership.
“The move appears to be intended to quash dissent and consolidate the power of the board leadership, which rammed through the rezoning of the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) last year while its vice chair, who is also chairman of the Land Use Committee, was a paid consultant to the developers,” Choe said in a statement sent to QNS. “This is the same community board that was the subject of federal investigations into potential conflicts of interest.”
The executive committee members include Warren Schreiber, Frank Macchio, Lei Zhao, Kelty and Apelian, who say Choe violated multiple rules and regulations imposed on members by the City Charter.
One of the five allegations against Choe includes his solicitation for campaign funds from board members, which is a direct violation of conflict of interest as well as the Campaign Finance Board, Kelty said.
The City Charter states that “public servants, including community board members are prohibited from coercing any other public servant to engage in political activities or make any political contribution.”
According to Kelty, the executive board has filed several formal complaints against Choe with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. However, Kelty says, the COIB has not issued a ruling on any of the complaints.
“They’re like a secret organization and I’m really annoyed about it because I don’t think they should have such power when they can’t answer a basic question,” Kelty said.
Additionally, there have been concerns about the creation of an authorized CB 7 Facebook page, that Kelty says displayed information tied to events organized by the Flushing Chamber of Commerce. It was then removed after the board requested the NYC Department of Investigation to intervene with Facebook.
The board had suspected Choe —who is the executive director of the chamber — created the page, and when asked, Choe was non-committal regarding his involvement. In response to the allegation, Choe previously told QNS in an interview that he had nothing to do with the CB7 Facebook page.
“He was the only one on that Facebook page and uploading things that the board is doing,” Kelty said. “He was speaking for the board and I didn’t give him approval to speak for the board.”
Furthermore, Kelty alleged that Choe has accused various members of the executive committee of being corrupt in approving the controversial Special Flushing Waterfront District development that was approved by the board in a vote of 30-8 in February 2020.
“I’ve been on the board for 36 years and have never had an accusation like that,” Kelty said. “Nobody ever accused the board like that.”
Last year, Apelian raised concerns about Choe’s motives after claiming that Choe is using the Flushing Chamber of Commerce as a platform to represent his own views and opinions. Furthermore, Apelian claimed that he heard from other people that the books at the chamber have been “sketchy.”
Apelian stated that Choe was against the Flushing Waterfront Development and instead of supporting the economic development that’s going to create permanent jobs and good growth of the city, he was using the chamber for his own ulterior motives and political aspirations.
Apelian, who served as a consultant to the developers behind the controversial rezoning project, recused himself from the board’s vote on the plan. The vice chair also accused Choe of being corrupt after the board member said that “for the right price, I might be persuaded to change my mind,” when he testified against the waterfront plan at a February 2020 Borough Board meeting. The comment was met with laughter.
Choe had responded to the allegation, saying that he testified that the only way he would support the project was if the developers created 500 units of affordable housing and met other community demands, with nothing in return for himself.