Tag Archives: Mary Ann Carey

CB 9 members question whether BP will amend infighting issues


| editorial@queenscourier.com

MAGGIE HAYES AND TERENCE M. CULLEN

Community Board (CB) 9 has grown infamous for its internal disagreements, leaving some members to wonder about oversight and to question whether they should seek help.

The borough president’s office oversees Queens’ 14 community boards. The question now is whether newly-elected Borough President Melinda Katz and her staff will amend the issues.

District Manager Mary Ann Carey said the borough president has recently called several board members in for interviews, including herself last week, regarding “everything,” but declined to specify what was discussed.

From September to November of last year, about 15 to 20 board members were “strongly discussing” having the borough president’s office intervene, but instead decided to “let it be” and “wait it out,” said an anonymous board source, who asked not to be named in fear of retribution.

“There has certainly been a lot of dissent regarding leadership,” the source said.

Now, the source “certainly hopes” Katz will intervene.

Another ranking board member, who asked not to be named, said the borough president’s office was aware of the problems with the board from local news coverage. Discussing matters of personnel issues with the press, however, would be inappropriate, the source said.

Katz’s office declined to comment. Katz oversaw community boards for three years when working for former Borough President Clare Shulman.

Last August, Carey was placed on six months’ probation after a battle with the board’s executive committee, which nearly ousted her in June of the position she has held for 30 years.

Board member Sam Esposito defended Carey and said that Chairperson Jim Coccovillo “restlessly continued on his quest to harass and intimidate the staff.”

In November, Esposito dodged his own removal from the board after allegations he made anti-Semitic remarks. Coccovillo attempted to redo the vote that kept Esposito, but it never came to fruition.

“Plenty of people were ready to boot him as chair if he tried to kick Sam off the board again,” said another member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Coccovillo was absent from the January meeting, and Carey revealed the chair had given her a performance report, in which she failed every category.

She then alleged that she and her staff work under stressful conditions because Coccovillo was always watching over their shoulder, and that he subjected them to “harassment.”

Coccovillo could not be reached for comment.

In March, CB 9 will have a vote for new leadership. Multiple sources said there is no chance Coccovillo will be reelected.

“I think we need a change in both the leadership and the office staff,” one source said.

 

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Community Board 9 votes to keep member after accusations of anti-Semitic remarks


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

LIAM LA GUERRE AND MAGGIE HAYES

Controversial Community Board 9 member Sam Esposito is here to stay, which sent several other members walking out the door.

A vote to remove Esposito from the board was shot down at the November meeting, 34 to 10.

Rumors of infighting circled the board for months, beginning in June with the potential removal of District Manager Mary Ann Carey.

“I would like the board not to be as divided as it is, and concentrate on the issues,” Carey told The Courier prior to the vote.

But at the November 12 meeting, the main point of issue was Esposito.

Multiple board members alleged Esposito made anti-Semitic remarks following a lunch meeting, in which said members felt their food was not “glatt kosher,” a higher standard than average.

Esposito shot back at Wallace Bock, Jan Fenster and Evelyn Baron. Bock responded, and wrote a letter to have Esposito, who has been on the board for decades, removed.

However, Esposito claims he was being targeted for his longtime support of Carey.

“I am in no way prejudiced against anybody,” he said. “All they are trying to do is get back at me for sticking up for Mary Ann Carey. This has nothing to do with the board.”

At November’s meeting, as the vote for removal approached, Esposito and Chair James Coccovillo screamed back and forth across the room.

“This is personal, Jim. This is about Mary Ann,” Esposito said, standing from his seat.

Coccovillo said he was adhering to “a demand” for Esposito’s termination.

“Do you want to sit down? There’s a little sign of aggression when you stand up,” he said. “There’s no reason for yelling out.”

After the votes were counted and Esposito was off the chopping block, he turned to his neighbors and said, “of course we won.”

Wallace Bock then stood up and addressed Coccovillo.

“I cannot in good conscious consider to sit on a board that condones the behavior of Sam Esposito. I resign,” he said.

Fenster and Baron followed him out the door, but offered no comment on their own resignation.

 

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As the carousel turns: A history of the Forest Park Carousel


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

When the Forest Park Carousel stopped spinning in 2008, it nevertheless continued its merry-go-round cycle that had become all too familiar over its history.

For decades, the carousel stood continuously in Forest Park as one of the many jewels of the 543-acre greenspace with locals and visitors flocking to the attraction each spring and summer.

“My cousin used to come from Brooklyn to take me to the carousel,” said Leonora Lavan, former president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society, of the ride that only cost a nickel when she rode it in the 40s. “I had a favorite horse; I used to wait until it was free to get on.”

During the summers in the late 1940s, St. John’s journalism professor Frank Brady was the guardian of the famed merry-go-round. Brady operated the carousel, remembering the festive, carnival-like atmosphere.

“On a really nice Saturday or Sunday the place was packed. Sometimes we couldn’t even accommodate all the kids,” Brady, 78, remembered. “Every pony was taken.”

The carousel’s music, Johann Strauss waltzes, stuck with him through the decades, transporting him back to his days as operator.

“The music was always the big thing,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

The music stopped in late 1966 when a fire tore through the ride, leaving behind only ashes.

“The fire started at 8:40 p.m. and was fought by 67 firemen using 26 pieces of fire apparatus, according to the Fire Department, and totally destroyed the carousel,” reported a 1966 article in the Long Island Daily Press.

The article said the carousel had been “a landmark for 50 years,” though an exact date of its opening in the park could not be confirmed.

“After the carousel burnt down, I remember my father taking me up there and seeing the ashes,” Wendell recalled.

Six years passed with no carousel replacing the original.

A Daniel C. Muller-carved carousel that formerly spun at Lakeview Park in Dracut, Massachusetts was on sale in the early 1970s. For $30,000, according to a 1972 Daily News article, Forest Park got a new carousel.

“[The carousel] was in an interesting little park at the end of a dead-end road in nowhere Massachusetts,” said Roland Hopkins, editor of The Carousel News & Trader magazine, a monthly based in California for carousel enthusiasts.

“Muller was one of the special ones for sure; he had a distinct style,” Hopkins said. “He was a master of strong military horses — strong, but not intimidating.”

Only two of the master carver’s carousels remain in the country; Forest Park and the Midway Carousel in Sandusky, Ohio.

The park’s new carousel was built in 1903 and featured a menagerie of hand carved wooden animals.

Everyone was delighted when they brought a carousel back, Wendell said, but barely a decade passed before it again was shuttered.

It fell into disrepair after closing in 1985.

“It really hasn’t had a good history since they brought the new one in. It’s had a history of being neglected,” said Wendell, who also heads the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, and members of the board began to lobby for the piece of Queens history to be restored.

New operators were secured, the ride was restored and a new era was set to begin.

City dignitaries, including then-Mayor Ed Koch, attended the carousel’s 1989 grand re-opening.

Eager to enjoy the first trip on the carousel, the crowd rushed to get on.

It didn’t move.

“I guess it was the weight of all the people,” laughed Carey.

A minor tweak, and the carousel was up and running again after a four-year absence.

For the next two decades, the carousel ran with relatively few problems.

In 2008, New York One, the carousel vendor, did not renew its contract, setting off another stagnant era for the ride.

While the carousel has stood still, local officials and residents have worked behind the scenes to get the historic ride spinning again.

Facebook groups were started, T-shirts were sold and four Requests for Proposals were issued.

Good news was received in March when the Parks Department announced a new vendor was chosen and the ride would be ready by spring.

But as March and April passed, even the staunchest supporters thought another year would pass with no carousel.

Fears were erased when the Parks Department announced New York Carousel Entertainment would operate the carousel and the public would once again be able to enjoy the attraction beginning Memorial Day weekend.

“We hope now people are more appreciative. We’ve come close to losing it before,” said Wendell.

Even from across the country, carousel enthusiasts realize the attraction of the Forest Park ride.

“You guys have a nice machine there. I hope these guys pay attention,” said Hopkins. “It will be great to have it up and running; it’s a great machine.”

A new era will begin on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.

The Forest Park Carousel rides again


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Forest Park Carousel

After nearly four years, children — and adults — were able to rush the Forest Park Carousel, choose their favorite horse and take a spin on the historic ride.

The Forest Park Carousel, shuttered since 2008, hosted St. John Evangelical Lutheran School students, politicians and civic leaders who fought to save the carousel to enjoy the first ride before it reopens to the public this weekend.

“It went real fast,” said Jason, 6. “It was a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t just the youngsters that enjoyed themselves.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, who had ridden the carousel as a child and fought to have it reopened in the late 80s hopped on board with the kids.

“It was great,” Carey said. “I enjoyed it very much. The children loved it.”

After years of civic groups campaigning, the Parks Department announced earlier this month that New York Carousel would operate and reopen the 109-year-old ride.

“When a community speaks out in one voice and they are heard and the result of their speaking out is seen, that’s a perfect snapshot of how government should work,” said Senator Joe Addabbo.

Addabbo added he is excited to bring his daughters, Alexis and Arianna, to the same ride he once visited with his father as a child.

“I cannot wait for this weekend to be here with my two girls and be standing beside them riding this carousel.”

The carousel will be open to the public on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.