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Ousted CB9 members mull lawsuit

Bronx Times

The chairman and members of a Bronx community board axed by the borough president aren’t taking it lying down.

Soundview Community Board 9’s former chairman and several of the 14 other members not re-appointed by Ruben Diaz Jr. said they are weighing legal action.

They also charge that the board massacre may have been connected to serious questions they had raised about a Diaz-backed major development project.

Ex-board chairman Al Hewyard claims Diaz circumvented the rules by allowing some members to stay on the board despite no real affiliation with the community or new memberrs having potential conflicts of interest.

He pointed out board member Carmen Taveras, a non-resident whose Soundview business closed.

But Diaz spokesman John DeSio argued she is entitled to stay under the City Charter, which broadly states a member has to have a “significant interest in the community.”

For Taveras, it’s volunteering as a member of Community Education Council 12, which issues policy recommendations to the city Department of Education.

“That’s a significant interest in the community,” said DeSio. “She’s involved in a real program with a real community entity.”

A questionable newly appointed member, Heward charged, is Kenneth Thomas, communications director for assembly candidate Luis Sepulveda.

Heyward said he is puzzled over his appointment since he is working with a politician.

But DeSio responded that Sepulveda is only a candidate, which does not violate the Borough President’s mandate outlawing politically connected individuals to join.

“If Luis gets elected then we’ll cross that bridge in January,” promised DeSio.

Kenneth Thomas did reach out to The Bronx Times, promising he will recuse himself from the board if Sepulveda’s elected.

The timing of Diaz’s reappointments came a month before a CB9 was to vote on a major local development project.

The developers, Soundview Partners LLC, want to put up a pair of buildings and sixteen townhouses that would take away parking spaces from the nearby city Housing Authority’s Soundview Houses.

Heyward and other members of the land and zoning committees questioned the developer in prior hearings.

“We were not opposed to the project but we were voicing the concerns of residents in the area,” said Heyward.

The new board, however, voted 20-0 for the project at its final meeting in June.

“They try to slip in things during the month of June and August,” said Shirlee Evans, a longtime member who was removed in May.

John DeSio asserted one “has nothing to do with the other.”

Heyward believes he and his former members’ questioning of the Diaz-backed project sealed their fate. “I think we showed resistance to what they wanted us to do.”

Sources said the board massacre could be yet another attempt at ousting longtime district manager Francisco Gonzalez.

But Heyward thinks Diaz is heading down a slippery slope if he intends to remove Gonzalez.

“It would be a big mistake because the community will vehmently protest,” said Heyward. “He’s one of the best district managers, so what’s the problem?”

Still, Heyward believes Diaz was wrong to micromanage the board by pushing out half its members.

“He wants to control the boards so they do his bidding,” said Heyward. “We were going to do what the people wanted.”

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

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