Crown Heights

Changing of the guard for embattled Crown Heights community board

July 24, 2019 Kelly Mena
Fred Baptiste addresses CB9 board members after being voted in as chairperson. Eagle photo by Kelly Mena
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An embattled Crown Heights community board was finally able to vote Tuesday night on new executive officers to lead the board starting this fall, following the resignation of its chairperson last month.

More than two dozen members of Community Board 9 took part in a special meeting to officially elect a new chairperson, first vice chair, second vice chair, secretary, treasurer and members-at large.

The board, which serves the neighborhoods of South Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens, Wingate and parts of North Flatbush, was forced to convene the meeting after its last reunion of the season — community boards normally recess during July and — ended without the hiring of a new district manager, a post that has gone unfilled for nearly four years.

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That last meeting was overshadowed by chairperson Pat Baker’s announcement that she would not be seeking reelection due to board dysfunction.

Fred Baptiste, a CB9 member since 2012, ran unopposed for Baker’s seat and was officially voted in as the new chairperson. Baptiste previously served as the board parliamentarian, a position responsible for keeping to the rules and governing procedures of the local organization.

“I want to be more transparent. People need to know how we operate, how they can become a part of the process,” Baptiste told the Eagle after his official election. “I am very big on process. I think a few times we have gotten ourselves in trouble because of process, so one of the things I want to make sure we are doing is being transparent.”

Baptiste’s tenure will begin immediately. He will now have the responsibility of leading the all-volunteer board in local planning and decision-making, including the selection of a district manager.

The group has been struggling to select a person for the top neighborhood bureaucratic position following years of scandals related to procedural controversies. While the chairperson acts as head of the board, the district manager is a city employee who leads a paid staff in enacting the board’s will.

In October 2015, Pearl Miles was ousted following a 30-year tenure when she allegedly altered board votes. Then the board hired Carmen Martinez, but she was pushed out following backlash from outspoken community activist Alicia Boyd, who filed a suit challenging Martinez’ appointment on the basis that the board didn’t follow its own hiring rules.

Following heated debates and walkouts throughout the selection process, the board has tabled the selection of a new manager until September.

“I’m going to ask everyone to please be paying attention to their emails, because we may be asking you to attend a few meetings and come to training because we really need to set an agenda on how we are going to move forward in this next year,” said Baptiste in an address to members following his election win.

The other positions went to Warren Berke (first vice chair), Francisca Leopold (second vice chair), Stuart Balberg (secretary), Debbie Timothy (treasurer), Eve-lyn Williams and Viva Morgan (members-at-large).

The new treasurer is hoping that the new board will be able to improve process and communication.

“One of the main issues is transparency, in terms of how things are being done and have been done,” Timothy told the Eagle during the election. “We do have bylaws and we need to be following them.”


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