The manager of a community board under fire for buying a $26,000 SUV with public funds defended the purchase Wednesday night — insisting the vehicle was needed to get around Brooklyn for business.
“I’m not going to parties,” Gerald Esposito, Community Board 1’s district manager told THE CITY.
He broke his silence days after THE CITY reported the Williamsburg and Greenpoint board bought the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with part of a one-time $42,500 budget-booster the City Council gave to all 59 community boards last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an investigation Friday as the City Council promised to examine community board spending citywide and other public officials questioned the purchase.
The issue came up at an at times contentious CB1 session Wednesday night, where Dealice Fuller, the board chair, tried to clamp down on questions. When one member of the public asked about the SUV, Fuller slammed her hand on the table in front of her and said, “I don’t have to talk to you.”
Tempers frayed as the meeting wore on. “To have my name ruined over $26,000 is ludicrous,” Fuller said.
Esposito complained of getting “calls from random people asking me to use the car. It’s personal!”
‘I Don’t Need This Car’
Earlier, Esposito, the head of a local Democratic club and the board’s manager for four decades, told THE CITY the vehicle was needed to shuttle Fuller, CB1’s volunteer chair.
“The borough president has meetings at night at Borough Hall — the chair has to go,” he said.
“How does she get there? I take her. I’ve been driving the chair for 42 years … whoever the board is, they’re volunteers. How do they get to where they wanna go? I’m not going to parties.
“This is a city vehicle. I have my own car. I don’t need this car. We use less than $200 worth of gas a year,” added Esposito, who earned $123,535 last year for the CB1 job.
Esposito said the board followed proper procedures in buying the vehicle. He said board meeting minutes — which suggested the purchasing decision, not widely revealed until this month, had been made in August by the board’s executive committee — were wrong.
He handed out a revised chronology at Wednesday’s meeting showing that CB1 was in touch with officials from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office and the City Council throughout the purchasing process. The Council funds came with only one condition: that the money not be used for personnel costs.
The debate over the SUV didn’t end with Wednesday’s meeting for some board members. “We need to discuss how to prevent this from ever happening again,” said Maria Viera.
But Sonia Iglesias, the board’s recording secretary, wanted to move onto other subjects. “Why don’t we talk about affordable housing?” she asked. “My neighbors can’t even live here with all this development. And we talk about this stupid car?”
This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.