Aug. 12, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Supporters of a Queens Community Board 7 member who faces expulsion for alleged misconduct have launched a petition as a last-ditch effort to stop him from being removed.
The petition calls on Queens Borough President Donovan Richards to keep John Choe on the board, arguing that the accusations lobbed against him by senior board members are unfair and unfounded. It has garnered more than 200 signatures since it was launched two weeks ago.
Choe’s fate will be determined by his fellow Community Board 7 members Monday when they decide whether to expel him or not. The board, which represents Flushing, College Point and surrounding areas, is holding a special meeting in order to put it to a vote.
The allegations against Choe are numerous. He has been accused of everything from soliciting donations from other board members when he ran for city council to starting a Community Board 7 Facebook page without permission.
Choe’s supporters argue that he is being unfairly targeted by board members for his opposition to a major development project on the Flushing waterfront, which was ultimately approved by CB7.
The findings of a special committee formed to investigate allegations against Choe will be presented to the full board ahead of Monday’s vote. If a simple majority of the board votes in favor of ousting Choe, he will be removed.
The investigation was prompted by complaints initially made by Chuck Apelian, the First Vice Chair of CB7.
The charges against Choe include emailing board members seeking campaign contributions — a violation of the New York City charter; defaming the board and its board members by calling them corrupt; opting not to vote on key issues before the board; and seeking a bribe — a charge that is undermined by video evidence — when he testified against the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) proposal at a borough hall hearing in February 2020.
Apelian and Choe have a history of butting heads — especially on the SFWD proposal.
Choe, the executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, vehemently opposed the massive 1,725-unit project. Meanwhile, Apelian, who chairs Queens CB7’s land use committee, was hired as a consultant by the developers of the project.
The board ultimately approved the development 30-8. Apelian recused himself from voting due to his involvement in the project.
However, Choe believes Apelian’s involvement with the developers was still a form of corruption — regardless of his abstention. He said that while he may not have voted he still had influence.
The online petition — launched by Queens College student Zeke Luger — calls out Apelian for his involvement in the SFWD project, while defending Choe.
“We believe the executive committee’s effort to expel Choe is retaliation for his outspoken opposition to the SFWD development and for calling attention to Apelian’s conflicts of interest,” Luger wrote in the petition.
“In expelling Choe, the executive committee would eliminate one of the only Board members opposed to the CB7’s role in transforming Flushing from a neighborhood for working families into a playground for the ultra rich.”
The petition urges Richards to stop the board’s “kangaroo court from retaliating” against Choe, It also calls on Richards’ office to investigate Apelian’s reported conflict of interests and the board’s “pay-to-play culture of corruption.”
A spokesperson for Richards would not comment on the specifics of the Choe case.
However, the borough president has said in the past that he would let the investigation play out and not interfere.
This Apelian character sounds like a real piece of work.