Aug. 18, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Queens Community Board 7 member was thrown off the board earlier this week after his last-ditch attempts to remain were dashed.
Community Board 7 voted to oust John Choe from the board despite his attempts to convince the board of his innocence and efforts to get Queens Borough President Donovan Richards to come to his rescue.
The board voted 39-to-3 with one abstention to expel Choe at a special meeting at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone Monday.
Richards — who oversees community boards in his role as borough president — said he would respect the board’s decision. Richards had appointed Choe to the board, despite local Council Member Peter Koo advising against it.
“I reappointed John Choe to Community Board 7 because I truly believe our community boards should be diverse, both in identity and thought. I continue to believe this,” Richards said in a statement to the Queens Post.
“Under the City Charter, however, a Community Board has the power to remove a member for cause with a majority vote, and Community Board 7 has decided to exercise this authority.”
The meeting, which was attended by roughly a dozen protesters supporting Choe, often got heated. The protesters held a rally outside the church before proceedings began.
queens cb7 does not represent us. this is a plantation board of mostly rich white folks who dictates what is being built in our community. board members kelty & chuckie apelian (paid consultant on many projects) called the cops on peace citizens demonstrating. @DRichardsQNS pic.twitter.com/xfgtd5KAF5
— Flushing Tenants Alliance (@flushingtenant) August 17, 2021
Chuck Apelian, the board’s vice chair, led the discussion and addressed the five charges that had been leveled against Choe. A special committee had been formed to investigate the allegations prior to Monday’s meeting.
Choe was accused of creating an unauthorized Facebook page for Queens Community Board 7; soliciting campaign donations for his recent City Council bid from other board members via email; having a poor attendance and voting record; defaming other board members by calling them corrupt; and putting forward the idea that he would accept a bribe at a public meeting.
The special committee found four of the five charges to have just cause necessary to expel Choe under the City Charter.
They didn’t find sufficient cause in the last accusation. They concluded that Choe was joking when he made the statement about accepting a bribe.
The full board didn’t vote on whether Choe was guilty of the individual charges posed against him. They only voted on whether they believed there was just cause to remove him as a member of Community Board 7.
Choe, in turn, called the whole proceeding a “kangaroo court” and added that he was being booted due to his opposition to large-scale real estate development. Choe argued that he was a victim of a hit-job by a board that is pro-development with corrupt senior members.
“Instead of addressing the concerns and criticisms I’ve raised over the years, the Chair and Vice Chairs in their collective wisdom have essentially decided to kill the messenger,” Choe said in a statement after the vote.
“How? With the most ridiculous collection of sham allegations, each more absurd than the other, that I have ever witnessed in my two-decade career in public service.”
Choe and Apelian have a long history of disagreements. It came to a head during the debate over the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) last year. Choe vehemently opposed the proposal while Apelian served as a paid consultant for the developers.
Apelian, however, maintained that the proceeding to throw Choe out wasn’t personal or pertained to any one issue.
“This didn’t happen overnight and this isn’t a personal situation,” he said at the special meeting. “This is something that went on for a couple years and specifically over the last couple of months.”
Choe has accused Apelian of being corrupt for his paid work on the SFWD. While Apelian recused himself from the board’s vote on the project, Choe still believes it was a form of corruption given his influence and power on Community Board 7.
“If Chuck Apelian doesn’t want people in our community calling him corrupt, he should just stop taking developer money,” Choe said in a statement. “Kicking me off the Community Board won’t stop people in the community from calling Chuck corrupt.”
Choe said the special meeting and the debate as to whether he should be removed has put a spotlight on the board’s dealings with developers. He said there is a need for reform, noting that board members should not be taking money from developers.