Fasten your seatbelts, Williamsburg — next week’s community board meeting is going to be a “showdown” over the stunning Christmas Eve dismissal of the chairwoman of the transportation committee, who was deposed because of her vocal support for a pair of controversial Kent Avenue bike lanes.
Amidst mounting opposition against the cycling paths, Teresa Toro was ousted from her spot at the top of the Community Board 1 transportation committee — and the CB1 chair Vinnie Abate, who was responsible for her dismissal, said he did it because she made “a series of statements” to the press.
Board members are confident that Toro was sacked because she backed the bike lanes, which cruised past CB1 in April with a 39–2 vote, but have come under increasing scrutiny from South Williamsburg residents, business owners, and local politicians.
“I have to assume this is about [Kent Avenue] because it’s the biggest and most contentious issue that the transportation committee has handled recently,” said one CB1 member.
Another board member agreed that Toro got the boot because of her outspoken support of the cycling paths, which have sparked protests from opponents and supporters.
“She got really incensed after this Kent Avenue stuff started going down and she had words publicly, over e-mail, through news articles, and person to person with members of the executive board — then members of the executive board voted to remove her from the committee and take away her chairpersonship,” the source said. “This is a huge blow to the committee.”
But Abate said in a statement that Toro was free to have her opinion on bike lanes, but she made comments to the media that were “disparaging of other board members and detrimental to the board as a whole.”
As committee chair, Toro pushed for more than the bike lanes, which will eventually become a part of the long-planned Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — a divided walking and biking path that will stretch from Greenpoint and Sunset Park. The Greenpoint resident also fought to secure additional parking spaces throughout North Brooklyn by converting outdated signage to allow more lenient parking regulations and urging the board to install muni-meters on commercial streets.
“If you look back at my record, I think I have represented everyone very fairly,” said Toro. “This makes me worry about the board and the board’s reputation. The strength of our recommendation is only based on our integrity.”
The ouster came as a surprise to Toro, whom Abate praised at recent meetings.
Even board member Simon Weiser — an adamant opponent of the Kent Avenue bike lanes and perhaps Toro’s biggest adversary on the transportation committee — had kind words for her.
“She’s a great person and she has done a lot of good,” Weiser said. “I commend her for her great work. She has good intentions, maybe she was just too aggressive.”
UPDATED ON JAN. 7 AT 9:42 PM: Story was updated to reflect Vinnie Abate’s statement, which was issued earlier in the day.
Community Board 1 will meet on Jan. 13 at the Swingin’ 60s Senior Citizens Center (211 Ainslie St. at Manhattan Avenue), 6:30 pm. For info, call (718) 389-0009.
©2009 Community News Group
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