WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — George Espinal is looking for help from New York's next mayor as he fights to keep his post as the head of a police precinct council.
Espinal, who was removed from his position as 34th precinct council president by NYPD officials Wednesday afternoon, is refusing to give up the title and has asked Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio to help find a solution to the drama that has enveloped the precinct council in recent months.
"I call upon Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and the newly appointed Police Commissioner to find a fair and balanced solution to these concerns," Espinal said in a statement released Wednesday night, on the eve of de Blasio's appointment of Bill Bratton to replace Raymond Kelly.
"The Community Council guidelines have not been adhered to or followed by the New York City Police Department. I have not been granted due process in this matter with respects to the removal of any executive board member," he added. "I'm pleased to report I remain as President of the 34th Precinct Community Council until we find the legality and grounds for my alleged removal."
NYPD officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Espinal's status. De Blasio's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The citywide precinct council's guidelines state that "the final decision to remove a council president or vice president requires the approval of the Chief of Community Affairs." Community Affairs Chief Thomas Chan approved Espinal's removal, a source said.
Espinal's dismissal was announced in an email to residents by precinct commanding officer Inspector Barry Buzzetti. In the email, Buzzetti wrote that Espinal was directed to stop using the council's website and Facebook and Twitter pages.
Espinal disregarded those directives just hours later, posting the statement to the council's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Espinal has received calls for his resignation from Dyckman Street business owners and residents in Washington Heights and Inwood for months, and Inwood resident Susan Ryan said Wednesday afternoon that she hoped his removal would end what has become a distraction to the neighborhood.
"While none of this has been a joyous occasion it is definitely a huge positive step forward for our community," Ryan said. "Perhaps we can now get down to the business of public safety and the strengthening of community ties in the 34th Precinct."