The longtime District Manager of Brooklyn Community Board 1 retired from his post on Aug. 31, possibly leaving the board without a leader until next summer.
Gerald Esposito, who had served as the district manager for more than 45 years, submitted his resignation in August, said CB1 chair Dealice Fuller at an Aug. 31 meeting of the Executive Committee, and would begin retirement on Sept. 1.
“I feel broken up, and I’m shocked and everything, but I know people have to move on and have to do what’s best for them,” Fuller said. “I know it hasn’t been easy. So we’ll see what happens with that.”
The announcement came as a surprise to most of the committee members — the community board has been on summer recess since June, and board members weren’t notified of Esposito’s retirement before the meeting.
The district manager is essentially responsible for running the community board’s day-to-day operations — hiring staff members, taking complaints from residents, and helping to facilitate communication and services between the city and the community. They also facilitate community board meetings, which can run for several hours on weekday evenings from September to June.
Finding a new district manager for Community Board 1
There was no immediate plan for replacing Esposito. The office of the Brooklyn Borough President, which is responsible for appointing community board members and maintaining planning and budget offices, is aware of Esposito’s departure, Fuller said.
“I guess they’ll tell us what the procedure is, and then we’ll take it from there, as soon as I find out what the procedure is,” she said. “With the hiring like it is, I don’t even know how long we’re going to be without a district manager.”
She had not heard anything from the borough president’s office as of Aug. 31, Fuller said. In the meantime, Johana Pulgarin, the board’s community associate, will be the only staff member running the office.
The board had previously voted to make Pulgarin an assistant district manager, but the request was rejected by the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, Esposito said. She received a salary increase, but not a new title.
“She knows all of the policies and procedures, she knows all of the city programs, passport, all of the purchasing programs, and she would be an excellent candidate for district manager,” Esposito said.
No matter who is going to take over, it will probably be a while before any decisions can be made, Fuller said at a Sept. 6 meeting.
“I reached out to the borough president’s office, and due to budget constraints, we can’t do anything with that position until the fiscal year is over in July 2023,” she said.
The salary that had been allocated for Esposito cannot be used to hire a new district manager, Fuller said, it has to be used to pay out the money still owed to Esposito.
According to the city charter, the board is allowed to appoint district managers, said Stephen Chesler, board member and chair of the Environmental Protection Committee. Other community boards have hired and fired their district managers, written up job descriptions, screened candidates, and recommended finalists to the borough president’s office.
That’s true, Fuller said, but none of that can be done without the borough president’s office.
Asking the Brooklyn borough president for help
“Everything with the borough president’s office — they’re not responding, I feel there’s something missing here, there’s something broken, and it’s frustrating for me,” said CB1 recording secretary Sonia Iglesias. “We have this charter and we can’t do what it says because the Brooklyn borough president’s office won’t let us do it.”
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso has pledged to reform and revitalize community boards, especially in ensuring the advisory boards, which represent local politics on the smallest scale, are more representative of the neighborhoods they represent.
“Utilizing his powers, Borough President Reynoso has been reforming boards by ensuring they’re diverse and truly representative of the communities they serve in his standards for appointment and re-appointment since assuming office earlier this year,” a spokesperson for the beep told Brooklyn Paper. “He has also been exercising his other Charter powers to support community boards in their public service by providing trainings and resources, and connecting them with the appropriate City agencies.”
Ultimately, all city budget and personnel issues are supervised by the city’s legal department and offices of Management and Budget and Citywide Administrative Services, according to the representative.
Executive committee members at the Sept. 6 meeting discussed writing a letter to the beep expressing their frustration, asking for help and inviting them to the Sept. 13 meeting of the full board.
That letter will ask if the board can see the entire budget allocated for CB1 by the city, express concern about Pulgarin’s workload and whether she would be able to do the job without officially being named and paid for the district manager role, and more. Fuller and Pulgarin will work to assemble the letter based on input from the executive committee.
“We’re all in this together, and my thing is, we can do this, we can do this, we can get through this,” Fuller said. “We can keep this board running as smooth as possible, but we all have to step up and start taking more responsibility than things that we’re assigned to.”
Of slightly less urgency was the matter of the community board’s controversial car. In 2019, CB1 infamously spent $26,000 from the city council on a Toyota RAV-4. Fuller said at the Aug. 31 meeting she did not think Pulgarin would be able to maintain the car on her own. The board, at some point, will have to decide whether they want to keep the vehicle or have the city come collect it, she said.
No one else is authorized to drive the car, though Pulgarin said at the Aug. 31 meeting she would be willing to take the course required by the city to become certified.