Tony Cassino dropped from Community Board 8


By Aliza Appelbaum

Longtime Community Board 8 leader and former City Council candidate Tony Cassino has not been reappointed to serve another term on the community board, the borough president’s office announced Tuesday.

“I think it’s pretty clear that this is political payback for daring to run for office,” said Mr. Cassino, a former board chairman who has served for more than a decade. “They should be honest and say they removed [me] from the board because I’m [Assemblyman] Jeff [Dinowitz]’s and [Councilman] Oliver [Koppell]’s political enemy.”

Community board appointments, all for two-year terms, are made by the borough president’s office, though local elected officials are usually given input, according to the BP’s office.

“Community board appointments are made at the discretion of the borough president, and we have a long internal process,” said John DeSio, director of communications at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office, in a statement. “In the end, we make the selections based on how we believe people will represent both our office and their respective communities.”

Mr. Cassino, who currently serves as the chair of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, oversaw several touchy issues in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area, including rezoning parts of the district to prevent them from overdevelopment, and the initial landmarking of Fieldston as an historic district.

“During the last nine years, the people of the northwest Bronx were fortunate to have such a courageous, bold person ... serving various positions on Board 8,” said CB 8 vice chairman Brad Trebach.

Mr. Cassino said he is proud of his record, but worries that this will set an “unfortunate” precedent for community board appointments.

“It looks like the people more likely to be appointed and re-nominated are the ones most willing to do [politicians’] bidding, and that’s disappointing,” he said. “There’ll be no consistency other than that people who are sort of kissing the ring of certain elected officials will be rewarded.”

The process is the same as it’s always been, said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the officials singled out by Mr. Cassino for torpedoing his nomination.

“I think political maneuvering is how he got appointed to the community board in the first place,” Mr. Dinowitz said. Mr. Cassino had worked in the borough president’s office prior to being nominated to his first term on the board.

Still, he said, it would be a mistake to assume that politics were behind Mr. Cassino’s removal from the board.

“Some people get re-appointed and some people don’t,” Mr. Dinowitz said.

But friends of Mr. Cassino’s on the board say they have noticed the way Mr. Cassino was treated when he tried to run for office against Mr. Koppell last year.

“It’s regretful that Tony had to put up with local politicos desperately trying to undermine him at every turn,” Mr. Trebach said.

That was not the case, said Mr. DeSio at the BP’s office.

“There are no political machinations here,” Mr. DeSio maintained, saying it was “unfortunate” if that was the impression community leaders were getting.

In addition to serving on Board 8, Mr. Cassino oversees the pro bono services at the law firm of Milbank Tweed Hadley and McCloy, and was appointed this year to the City’s Charter Revision Commission.

“I have served over a decade and have accomplished many of the things I set out to accomplish,” he said. “I feel very satisfied about my service. I loved it, and now I am busy with many other things.”