QUEENS — Community Board 9 overwhelmingly voted Tuesday night to keep a longtime member who was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks directed at some of his Jewish colleagues.
By a vote of 34-10, the board voted in support of Sam Esposito, who has represented Ozone Park on the board since 1988.
“The vote is the vote,” Esposito said after the meeting. “I’m sorry it got this far.”
Immediately after, one of the board members who was targeted by the remarks, Wallace Bock, stood up and announced his resignation from the board.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to sit on a board that condones the behavior of Sam Esposito,” he said. “I resign.”
The other two offended board members, Jan Fenster and Evelyn Baron, walked out of the meeting with Bock. They declined to comment.
The vote was prompted by complaints from Baron, Bock and Fenster, who said the meal Esposito bought for a board meeting in June was insufficiently kosher. They refused to eat the food.
The food was ordered from a kosher deli, according to Esposito, but the members told him that the deli was not kosher enough because it was open on Saturdays, Esposito said.
Esposito said he then ordered and paid for food from another restaurant that they chose but they still didn’t like it, he said.
A couple days later, Esposito sent them an email stating they were “acting like little children that did not get their way,” and called them “ungrateful,” “juvenile” and “rude.”
“After seeing what I saw at the meeting, if that is what being Jewish is all about, I would rather be atheist because I was raised proper with respect and much different than you three,” he wrote.
After receiving the email, Bock sent a letter to CB9 Chairman James Coccovillo, calling Esposito's note a "vicious anti-Semitic diatribe against the religion which I practice," and asking for his removal. Baron and Fenster also signed the request.
Coccovillo, who was among those who voted to remove Esposito from the board, said after the meeting that he stands “behind the board’s vote.” But he plans to check with the Queens Borough President’s office whether procedures were followed.
Esposito said his remarks in the email were not anti-Semitic and were only intended as a criticism of three board members.
He also said the attempt to remove him from the board was in retaliation for his support for District Manager Mary Ann Carey. Coccovillo and the executive board wanted to remove Carey last June, according to Esposito, but the board eventually voted to place Carey on probation.