It was a battle down to the second finish line for the selection of a new chairman for a Bronx community board.
Anthony Vitaliano, vice chairman of east Bronx Community Board 11 won the seat Thursday, Dec. 20 in a run-off election tainted with both the borough president and local city councilman working behind the scene to push another candidate.
Vitaliano, a retired decorated NYPD lieutenant, beat Democratic state committeeman Joe McManus 24-to-16, with one abstention, in the run-off vote after neither reached more than 50% of the vote in the first go-round of voting.
The pair came in ahead of Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Community Association, and Irene Rukaj, a perennial local political candidate who nominated herself at the last minute.
A victorious Vitaliano pledged to be “available 24/7” to board members and said he would call for the board to limit the chair’s position to two four-year terms.
Vitaliano spent 40 years with NYPD, last serving as commander of the Bronx homicide and then robbery units..
McManus, a long time board member, is also a member of the Enterprise Association Steamfitters Local 638 for over 40 years, and is currently its Bronx political representative. He is also a Democratic state committeeman for the 80th Assembly District who actively campaigned for local Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, who lost in the September primary to Mark Gjonaj.
Although, under City Charter rules, McManus’ political position wouldn’t bar him from chairing the board, nominee D’Angelo expressed reservations, as did some other board members.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilman Jimmy Vacca came under some fire for actively campaigning for McManus. Though legal, some complained it raised a potential conflict of interest since many developers who contribute heavily to electeds’ campaigns must also come before local community boards to win approval for their projects.
City Council members nominate board members for two-year terms, and borough presidents appoint them to the boards – and can choose not to re-appoint them, as Diaz recently did with 13 members of Community Board 9 in Soundview, where he has been wrangling with the district manager there.
The Board 11 vote was to fill the seat of longtime chair Dom Castore, who died in November after a lengthy battle with illness that left the board without a chair for two years. Vitaliano had filled in as acting chairman of the board, which covers Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Van Nest, Eastchester and Allerton.
Under board procedures, each candidate spoke for three minutes, highlighting their strengths, followed by a question-and-answer segment, with nominees given one-minute response times to member questions.
Each candidate was also asked one question by each member of the board and were given one minute response times.
Questions varied from how each nominee thought they would be able to improve education in the district to how they will manage the chaos that can sometime consume board meetings.
Although nominees differed opinions on a number of issues, they all agreed they want to see an end to the chaos that has often marked fractious meetings at the 48-member board.
Board chairpersons, an unpaid position, work as liaisons between board members and the district manager, who executes any motions the board passes.
They are also the eyes and ears of the neighborhood for quality of life issues.
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394