This Tuesday, Brooklyn Community Board One will hold nominations to fill out the 2009-10 Executive Committee, as Public Safety Chair Mieszko Kalita and Executive Committee At Large-member Christopher Olechowski are locked in a close battle to succeed long-time CB1 Chair Vincent V. Abate, stepping down after a twenty-five year reign.
Over the past two weeks, both Kalita and Olechowski have been calling Community Board members and furiously counting votes to better determine their chances for the vote for Chair, which will happen early next month. According to Kalita, who owns and operates a deli on Manhattan Avenue, the vote is very close.
“The people who told me they were voting no were very passionate about Chris,” Kalita said. “It won’t be anyone who we haven’t known from the beginning. Vinnie has been there for so long. We are not really used to anyone else behind the microphone. It will be a huge change and definitively a new direction for the board.”
With 47 members currently on the community board, the candidates must secure 24 votes in order to be chosen chair. So far, no other candidate has declared their interest in the race, though that could change on Tuesday,
“I’ve not heard of anyone running with exception of Mieszko and Chris,” said District Manager Gerry Esposito. Esposito has not endorsed a candidate in the race. “ Anyone can nominate anyone and nominations need not be seconded. On Tuesday we’ll know who’s running for what.”
Several community board members who have made their support known privately to the candidates declined to comment for this article. Political observers believe that Olechowski, a Greenpoint resident who runs a local home attendant service, is the favorite in the race because he has served on the board for a longer period of time than Kalita, enjoys close relationships with many board members, particularly seniors and Orthodox Jews, and is well liked by community leaders.
Board members favoring Kalita are generally younger. They have thrown their support behind him because they admired the efficient way he runs public safety meetings, which can sometimes be unruly and confrontational.
One political observer believes that local councilmembers and assemblymembers will attempt to sway the Chair race and pressure members or Borough President Marty Markowitz to appoint their favorite. However, others say that this is unlikely, as local electeds have been distracted with their own races or passing transportation and civil rights legislation in Albany. Press officials in these offices confirmed that their superiors will not be weighing in on the CB 1 Chair race and that it is entirely up to the community board.
The wild card in the outcome of the race will most likely be the addition of several new members to the board, as the Borough President’s office completes the appointment of new board members later this month. There are currently three vacancies on the board, plus one additional space when Abate retires, and more could follow if some current members are not reappointed.
“We haven’t been told either way,” said Esposito. “I know one member of the board has not sought reappointment but the member is still considered a member until Borough Hall provides a new list. They’re always late with appointments. My existing list stays existing unless I’m told otherwise.”
Community Board One will meet at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, May 12 at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center, at 211 Ainslie Street. Nominations will occur at 8 PM, and the meeting is open to the public. For more information, call 718-389-0009.