With tears in his eyes, Joseph Conley said goodbye to the position he has held for close to three decades as he handed over the reins at Community Board 2 on Thursday night.
Conley officially announced at the December Community Board 2 monthly meeting that he would be stepping down as chair of the board. He gave the news to board members two days before the meeting via a letter.
“It’s been a great honor for me, a great privilege to be a voice of the community board and in some cases the face of the community board,” Conley said during the meeting. “There is no other reason to say other than it’s time.”
Patrick O’Brien, who previously held the position of second vice chair and has been a member of the board for 13 years, was voted as the new chair of Community Board 2.
Although he is stepping down from his position as chair of the board, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and a part of Maspeth, Conley will finish his term as a board member, which ends in April.
“I have made lifelong friends in this room, people that I have shared my life, my family and you will remain all my friends,” Conley said while tearing up. The members of the board and audience cheered and gave him a standing ovation.
Conley said he joined the board because of the issue of the “squeegee men,” who would attempt to clean car windows on the side of the road at Queens Plaza. Since then he said he has seen each community flourish in its own unique way.
When thinking of his proudest moment of being part of the board, he said it had to be the community’s input for the new Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City and helping to come up with affordable housing in that area.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough only from the sense of the inspiration you get every day from people, trying to help people, making a difference — so it’s very hard,” Conley said. “I’m very happy for Pat. He will be a dynamic leader. He’s very thoughtful, and he has a good grasp of the issues in the community, so he will do a great job.”
Along with voting for a new chair, the executive board members decided to also put forth a new “slate” and vote on a new first and second vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. The decision was initially met with opposition from some board members, who said they felt it was too soon to be asked to vote, especially with only knowing two days before that Conley would be leaving.
However, after going back and forth, the members voted and the new executive board was chosen.
“It’s going to take some time to get the lay of the land even having been on the executive board. There are things that the chairman, particularly this chairman, has done that are going to be hard to duplicate, but you find your way and in a couple of months you do your own thing,” O’Brien said.
The new executive board consists of Stephen Cooper continuing as first vice chair, Lisa Deller going from secretary to second vice chair, Diane Ballek staying as treasurer, and Denise Keehan Smith becoming the new secretary.
O’Brien, who is a lifelong Long Island City resident, said he plans to continue the focus on key community issues, such as quality of life, transportation and development.
“We still have all the same issues. We’re going to miss Joe, but we’re not going to stop working towards all of those [issues]. The good news is that he’ll still be around,” O’Brien said. “We have more issues than answers, but that’s why we’ll work on it.”
Community Board 2’s next meeting will be on Jan. 8, 2015.