More than two weeks after stripping Teresa Toro of her Transportation Committee chairmanship, Community Board 1 Chair Vincent Abate offered a written explanation for his decision.
“I took this action in response to Teresa’s conduct over the past few weeks, specifically a series of statements that she made in letters to the press and on public mailing lists,” the statement read.
“I felt that these remarks were disparaging of other board members and detrimental to the board as a whole.”
While the letter did not state specifically what those statements were, CB1 Executive Committee members Dell Teague and Rabbi Joseph Webber said last week that Abate was particularly upset about a Dec. 18 letter Toro wrote to the Brooklyn Eagle.
That letter contradicted an earlier letter written by Abate and CB1 District Manager Gerald Esposito to Department of Transportation Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri stating that CB1 wanted the controversial Kent Avenue bike lanes removed pending a solution that would be more palatable to the lanes’ vocal opponents.
Toro’s letter to the Eagle stated that because CB1 had not voted to remove the lanes, Abate and Esposito “were not advancing the official position of the board. They were expressing their personal opinions on the matter and should have clarified that in the letter.”
Said Teague, a member of the Executive Committee that unanimously gave Abate the green light to dismiss Toro (though technically, the Chair does not need approval), “It was very, very inappropriate for the chair of a committee to do something like that. She had an obligation to talk to Vinnie and Gerry before she went and did something like this.”
In addition to the letter to the Eagle, Toro has been active on a CB1 Yahoo Groups email list. The bike lanes have been a frequent topic of email threads, and Toro has not been shy about weighing in on the matter with impassioned emails Abate and others may have interpreted as strident in tone.
In response to Abate’s letter, Toro wrote:
“As a member of the community board, our reputation concerns me greatly, and I believe that the entire board looks bad when we put out inconsistent and unclear information, or fail to distinguish our personal opinions from stated board positions. In that regard, I believe it’s every board member’s responsibility to raise those conflicts to avoid them in the future.”
“It’s unfortunate that Chairman Abate has chosen to interpret my statements as a personal slight, and it is my hope that my CB1 colleagues would agree that we all must be fully accountable and clear whenever we are conducting board business to ensure ongoing public trust.”
Toro will stay on with CB1. Abate has even asked her to remain a member of the Transportation Committee. The conciliatory measure was a reminder that Abate and Toro were once each other’s biggest supporters.
At Board meetings, Abate frequently praised Toro — who has earned a citywide reputation as a strong advocate for livable streets and innovative transportation solutions — for her hard work as Chair. For her part, Toro has been in contact with the Borough President’s office to plan a send-off for the 91-year old Abate, who is retiring as CB1 Chair this June after serving in that capacity for the better part of three decades.