After years of people complaining to him about the appearance of conflict of interest with Harold Weinberg, New York City Councilmember Mike Nelson has decided not to reappoint the engineer to Community Board 15.
“It was just enough,” Nelson told this newspaper.
Back in 2003, the Conflict of Interests Board ruled that Weinberg could no longer remain on Community Board 15 while also representing clients appearing before the group seeking support for their special permits and variance applications.
Up until that point, Weinberg routinely advocated on behalf of his clients. Although he recused himself from the actual votes, his opinions and assessments regarding his clients’ applications carried tremendous weight with his fellow board members.
According to then chair of the Zoning, Variance & Special Permits Committee Maurice Kolodin, as much one third or more of all applicants coming before Community Board 15 at that time were Weinberg clients.
Instead of resigning, however, Weinberg engaged the architectural firm of Frank Salito, RA to represent his clients for him, and the practice has continued ever since.
Today, Weinberg insists as he did five years ago that he is in full compliance with the rules governing community boards in this city and is dismissive of charges that he acted improperly as a member of Community Board 15.
“Legally, there is no conflict of interest, so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” he said. “Councilman Nelson had to do what he had to do.”
Members of Community Board 15, however, were not willing to part with Weinberg so easily.
At June’s general meeting held at Kingsborough Community College, members voted to appoint Weinberg as a “special advisor” to the group.
Zoning and Variance Chair Ronald Tawil lauded Weinberg and his encyclopedic knowledge of the building code, saying that the engineer was a “tremendous contributor to our deliberations.”
“His help has been invaluable and we don’t want to do without his expertise,” Tawil said.
Weinberg critics were visibly aghast, but not all that surprised.
Weinberg, who welcomed his role as “the best of both worlds,” said the decision to appoint him as a special advisor to Community Board 15 came “completely by surprise.”
“I imagine that there are some people who are glad I’m off the board,” he said. “People against change might derive some satisfaction.”
When asked about the board’s decision to appoint Weinberg as a special advisor, Nelson said that he thought it was a “nice thing to do.”
“He does know an awful lot,” the councilman said.
Except for a brief period from 1988 to 1991, Weinberg has served on Community Board 15 for the last 32 years.
The late Leon Katz first appointed Weinberg to Community Board 15 in 1975.
Nelson has tapped Richard Wagner – active with the Kings Bay YM-YWHA – to replace Weinberg.
While he’s officially out as a voting member of Community Board 15, Weinberg isn’t so sure he won’t be reappointed once more.
“It doesn’t have to be forever,” he said.