Get this: the chairwoman of a key North Brooklyn transportation panel was booted from her position because she attempted to correct a factual inaccuracy in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (of all places).
Greenpoint resident Teresa Toro was deposed as chair of Community Board 1’s transportation committee for talking to the press without first speaking with CB1 members about a mistake on the Eagle’s Web site.
The mistake by the Eagle — which has no relation to the famed paper of Walt Whitman — stemmed from a Dec. 5 letter sent by CB1 Chair Vincent Abate and District Manager Gerald Esposito backing a proposal to temporarily remove one of the twin bike lanes on Kent Avenue.
The Eagle, in an article that has since been removed from its Web site, though it can still be viewed if you know the URL, construed the letter as a change in the board’s official policy. That prompted Toro to e-mail the newspaper to demand a correction, as she believed that Abate and Esposito’s letter was not, in fact, an official board statement.
“I reached out to the press and said, ‘You have a factual error,’” said Toro.
But her call for a correction sparked a fiery e-mail chain between board members and reporters that resulted in her dismissal for “disparaging … board members” and being “detrimental to the board as a whole” in her discussions with the media, according to members of the board’s executive committee.
“Imagine if every time the chair of this board made a statement … that a chair of a committee didn’t like [and] went out to the press and made it public,” said committee member Del Teague at a heated Jan. 14 meeting. “By doing that she took it upon herself to speak for the board.”
Toro’s ouster occurred on Dec. 23, but the details only emerged at the explosive meeting where more than a dozen Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents called her dismissal “an outrage,” “insulting to the community’s intelligence” and “detrimental to the community.”
“She is one of the most innovative, open and consensus building chairs, not only in CB1, but around all of the community boards in the city,” said neighborhood activist Michael Freedman-Schnapp. “If you live in CB1, your life has probably been made better by Teresa Toro, whether you know it or not.”
Some board members rallied for Toro to be reinstated as the chair, but Abate did not bring the measure to a vote at Tuesday night’s packed full board meeting, choosing instead to end the meeting with under a cloud of uncertainty.
“I don’t want to leave a fractured board,” said Abate, who is planning to retire in the coming months. “I want to get this resolved. I’m not telling you right now what I’m doing. Just let me take care of the situation. Don’t worry about it. I’d never walk out of here leaving unfinished business.”
Abate refused to elaborate on whether he intends to reinstate Toro. For her part, Toro declined to speculate on whether or not she would accept the position as chair if she were reinstated.