Koppell nixes board member for vote


Bob Abbott, chair of Community Board 8’s Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee, has not been reappointed to the board, an apparent  punishment for a vote he made two years ago.

Councilman Oliver Koppell asked the borough president’s office not to reappoint Mr. Abbott. Community board appointments, all for two-year terms, are made by the borough president’s office, though local elected officials often give their input. 

In an interview Tuesday morning, Mr. Koppell would not comment specifically on why he did not nominate Mr. Abbott, but he said he was unhappy with Mr. Abbott for a vote he made in 2011. 

“I’m not going to enter into any discussion on why I appointed someone or why I didn’t appoint someone,” Mr. Koppell said.

In 2011, Mr. Abbott was chair of a five-person nominating committee, which is tasked with presenting a slate of leadership positions to the full board for a vote every year. The five-person committee voted for Maria Khury to fill the vice chair position, which she still holds. But Mr. Koppell called members of the nominating committee to tell them his preference for vice chair was board member Steve Froot. Mr. Koppell told The Press he called Mr. Abbott to tell him he favored Mr. Froot.

But Mr. Abbott voted for Ms. Khury, who also voted for herself, giving her a 3-2 win, creating another controversy unto its own. Former Housing Committee chair Tom Durham also voted for her and  was not reappointed to the board last year, a move Mr. Koppell was also behind.

“I didn’t feel Maria was the preferred nominee for vice chair. I’m admitting that and I’m admitting I urged Abbot to vote otherwise,” Mr. Koppell said on Tuesday.

His reason for opposing Ms. Khury? 

“She was a supporter of my opponent. I was the incumbent councilmember,” he said, referring to Ms. Khury’s support for City Council candidate Tony Cassino.

In 2008, Ms. Khury gave Mr. Cassino a $50 contribution.

When asked if he appoints people to the board to become “yes-men,” Mr. Koppell gave conflicting answers.

“I don’t expect people to be my toadies or my lackies, but I have to be comfortable with the people I nominate,” he said.

Later in the interview, Mr. Koppell said nobody has a right to remain on the board and that it is a political process, similar to that of a mayor appointing commissioners.

“They are nominated to be members of the community board but they have to be, to some extent, compatible to the people who appoint them,” he said.

Mr. Abbott, who said he served on the board for about seven years, thought the bad feelings from his vote were in the past.

“For two years, to be waiting for this opportunity to slap my wrist, that’s disappointing,” he said. “I thought so much time had passed that we could get past that one event and look at the totality of what’s been accomplished. And look to the future.”

He said he could not think of any other reason why Mr. Koppell would not nominate him.

“It’s housecleaning,” he said, adding that getting rid of him means Ms. Khury lost a supporter in her likely bid for chair next year.
Though Mr. Abbott was disappointed, he said he had a “terrific experience,” serving on CB 8.

“I have totally enjoyed my time on this community board and the leadership has always been wonderful and supportive,” he said, adding that he was particularly proud of the work he’s done organizing events with local libraries.

CB 8 chair Bob Fanuzzi said it was a loss to the board.

“It’s really sad. He was a great, great board member for many years and could always be counted on for his committees to lend a voice of reason. He had a great perspective … he asked all the right, tough questions,” Mr. Fanuzzi said.

Mr. Durham, who last year railed against the community board appointment process after he was not reappointed to the board by Mr. Koppell, said board members should be free to vote for whoever they want without fear of retribution. 

He said he was not surprised that Mr. Abbott was not reappointed.

“Two people who voted for Maria got canned, nobody else got kicked off,” he said. 

Mr. Koppell said he sees nothing wrong with the process. 

“If you didn’t want the councilperson to have influence on the board, do it a different way. Get them elected,” he said.

Longtime board member Damian McShane, who served as chair for three years, did not reapply. In a letter to The Riverdale Press earlier this year, Mr. McShane bemoaned the influence of local elected officials on CB 8.

“These guys hold grudges,” Mr. Durham said.


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Bob Abbott, Oliver Koppell, Community Board 8’s Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee,