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Diaz Jr. unilaterally removes CB9 members

Bronx Times

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has chopped more than half the members of a community board.

His ultimate aim, sources charged, is to depose the board’s district manager, whom he has crossed swords with in the past.

Diaz failed to reappoint more than a dozen members to Community Board 9, which oversees Soundview, Castle Hill, Unionport and Parkchester.

Among the kindling was longtime chairperson Al Heyward.

The current members were replaced with 17 new ones reportedly friendly to his office, said a source.

New members can vote for a new chairman, but cannot run for that post themselves.

Among the new appointees was Kenneth Thomas, communications manager for assembly candidate Luis Sepulveda, who has close ties to the borough president’s father, state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.

The borough president has reportedly had a difficult relationship with its district manager, Francisco Gonzalez, going back to Diaz’ days in the assembly.

The board bloodletting is being seen in some corners as the first move for new board members beholding to Diaz to oust Gonzalez, district manager for the past 19 years.

Under the City Charter, only the local board - and not the borough president - has the power to vote a district manager out of office.

“I’m concerned about the future of the board,” Gonzalez told the Bronx Times. “And that decent and dedicated community activists have been removed. I fear it will have a devastating effect on both the board and the community.”

Shown the door were: Shirlee Evans, Elaine Garcia, Al Heyward, Michael Guzman, Loretta Henry, Jerad Hollingsworth, Henry Lajarda, Precilla Martinez, Patricia Miller, Lillian Moore-Bannister, Dr. Joyce Nash, Denise Rivera, Cynthia Rivera, Zenali Tirado and Darryl Williams.

Appointed to the board:

Edwin Mendez, Christina Collazo, Benigno Cuevas, Roger Van Ulissengen, Brandon Ganaishal, Angel Miranda, Shamin Miah, Felipa Manaiza, Bharati Kemraj, Deborah Oguamah, Tahmina Begum, Mary McGee, Rudy Francis, Rev. Sidney Hargrave, Jesse Mendoza, Sheik Moussa Dramah

Approving board members is part of a borough president’s duties, though seldom does a borough president decimate a board, which serves an advisory role on zoning and other local issues.

The last major board cut came in 2007 when then Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. “fired” several Community Board 4 members who voted against the building of the new Yankee Stadium.

The nonbinding vote proved embarrassing for Carrion, who lobbied the 39 board members to jump on board. Carrion’s press secretary brushed off the allegations as revenge at the time, instead calling it an effort to expand community involvement.

Diaz spokesman John DeSio echoed the same sentiment, saying the dismissals are simply part of a “long internal process.”

“We make the selections based on how we believe people will represent both our office and their respective communities.”

The move has community organizers wondering whether boards carry any say in the political process.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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