It was a bitter loss.
There was no congratulatory handshake after the election of a new president for the Morris Park Community Association last week after a heated race .
Tony Signorile narrowly defeated Sal Conforto 17 to 13 for a two-year term as head of the influential community organization.
Signorile replaces incumbent Al D’Angelo, who was term-limited after four years and will now serve as first vice chairman.
“The community made a tragic mistake,” said Conforto, who stormed out of MPCA’s Bronxdale Avenue headquarters after the results were announced.
He later returned, standing by the doorway as Signorile spoke bluntly over his plans for the group. Conforto did not, however, offer his congratulations or shake hands with Signorile.
“Yes, there’s going to be changes, some changes,” said Signorile. “People are not going to like that.”
A member of Community Board 11 and chief organizer of the Bronx Columbus Day Parade, Signorile did promise to put the neighborhood ahead of himself as MPCA leader, emphasizing protecting both neighborhood children and the elderly.
The election, on Wednesday, May 22 ended several weeks of campaigning, especially by Conforto, a retired city corrections officer and CB11 member.
Besides lobbying fellow members, Conforto was reported to also have reached out to local politicians for endorsements.
But some members questioned Conforto’s poor attendance record, spending months at his other home in Florida.
“People questioned his ability because of his past record,” said one member.
In taking over the MPCA, Signorile now heads a non-political organization that merits strong attention from local electeds.
“We had Sen. Jeff Klein sign two bills there,” said D’Angelo. “We had the mayor there and the governor there.”
The group’s success lies in its visibility. The association’s neighborhood patrol car routinely cruises the streets during day and evening hours, serving as an extra set of eyes and ears for the local 49th Precinct.
Locals often turn to the MPCA for help with landlord disputes, overpopulated schools or other quality of life issues.
The group stepped in last year to collect donations for the annual Morris Park Christmas light decorations, after going dark the year before.
The group, however, is in need of fresh, younger blood, said D’Angelo, with its most of its current members at least 50 years or older.
Based on his experience leading the group, D’Angelo had this advice for his successsor:
“You can’t forget you’re there to serve the people,” he said. “Be humble. Don’t get a swelled head just because you’re the president of the Morris Park Community Association.”
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383