Williamsburg Community Board Manager Cashes Out After 45 Years and a Free SUV
Gerald Esposito’s sudden retirement leaves Community Board 1 bracing for budget catastrophe as he redeems decades of unspent vacation time. Two other recent Brooklyn board retirees got paid more than $200,000 between them.
Dealice Fuller, the chair of Brooklyn Community Board 1, stunned her fellow members on the board when she unceremoniously announced the retirement of district manager Gerry Esposito, who led the Williamsburg and Greenpoint board for 45 years, during a regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 31 — his last day on the job.
Executive committee members at that meeting worried Esposito’s exit represented a dilemma for the board, who had no clear successor on tap for the paid public role.
Fuller had received Esposito’s two weeks’ notice prior, she told the committee, but that “it didn’t occur to me that we should inform the whole board” about Esposito’s retirement until his last day on the job.
Now, the board appears to be in a full-blown crisis: Esposito had accrued so many days off that the cashout would essentially leave the board — which has a $257,507 budget for the fiscal year ending next June — without enough money to remain operational or hire a successor. Complicating matters, the only other person on the board’s payroll, Esposito’s office assistant, has been on medical leave for the last several weeks.
Then there’s the matter of dealing with a $26,000 Toyota Rav-4 SUV Hybrid, purchased by Esposito in late 2018 with the board’s approval and spotted parked near his apartment several months later.
Esposito had a salary of $133,081 last year, city records show. He could not be reached for comment.
“Due to budget constraints,” Fuller told members at a follow-up emergency executive committee meeting on Sept. 6, “we cannot do anything with that position as of now, until the fiscal year is open, in 2023.” The person serving in that key district manager post, now vacant, fields complaints and concerns from community residents. They also oversee an office responsible for approving liquor licenses, block party and street fair permits, recommending land use projects, and other local responsibilities in the neighborhoods it represents.
“What?!” several board members shouted. “That’s outrageous,” another said. “I can’t understand that.”
Fuller interrupted and repeated that the position cannot be filled until the following year “due to budget constraints,” adding that “Gerry has a lot of time.”
“Neither one of the positions,” she said, in reference to the district manager and the assistant role, “can be filled at this point.”
While the exact amount of money Esposito is to receive upon retirement is still unclear, the recent retirement of another veteran Brooklyn district manager suggests the liability could be substantial.
After she retired in October 2020 after 39 years of service, Brooklyn Community District 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano received a total of $161,305.99 in lump sum payments, records from City Comptroller Brad Lander show. City payroll records indicate that $127,500 of that came in the year of her retirement, with the rest following.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Turano confirmed that her payout reflected part of her total accrued time off and compensation time — and noted that under city law cashouts cannot exceed an employee’s salary.
During her tenure managing the community board, Turano entered the public spotlight as the unorthodox companion of State Sen. Carl Kruger, who had been the board’s chairman and was later convicted on federal bribery charges.
Turano told THE CITY that when she decided to retire in 2020 she and the board embarked on a six-month process, in cooperation with the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, to ensure “no harm done” to the board’s finances.
Hence the two-part payout, over two fiscal years. “It was done very carefully not to have a negative impact on the board’s budget,” Turano said.
Another veteran district manager who made headlines while serving in the job also got a payout after quitting, city records show.
Craig Hammerman resigned as Brooklyn Community Board 6 district manager in 2017 after being criminally charged on allegations he stalked his ex-girlfriend. Prosecutors dropped those charges. Jurors later acquitted Hammerman in a separate case in which the Brooklyn District Attorney charged him with giving himself unauthorized raises by forging signatures of board officials.
Hammerman received a lump sum $51,843.00 payment in fiscal year 2020, city records show. He had a salary of $121,931 when he left the job, records show.
He confirmed with THE CITY in an email that the cash reflected “a lump sum payout from the annual leave and sick leave time accrued over my 27 years of service.”
Brooklyn Community Board 1 enlisted the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget and the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, which appointed board members, to help them sort out the issue of Esposito’s replacement — and the board’s finances.
“OMB and the Community Board are working closely together to ensure that they can continue to operate without disrupting their work for the community,” mayoral spokesperson Jonah Allon said in a statement Thursday. “As we are doing citywide, we will continue to monitor, evaluate and assess their needs within the context of the city’s fiscal condition.”
The Notorious SUV
Esposito was the youngest district manager in the city when he was hired in 1977. In 2009, he unsuccessfully campaigned for City Council, losing to Diana Reyna. Esposito is also president of the Seneca Club, one of Brooklyn’s oldest Democratic Party organizations.
But he is perhaps better known for being the face of the board’s infamous purchase of a $26,000 Toyota Rav-4 SUV, acquired with funds the City Council granted to each of the city’s 59 community boards to help them improve services.
THE CITY reported in 2019 that CB1 executives approved spending $26,000 to purchase a 2018 Toyota Rav-4 SUV Hybrid, which remains the board’s property.
Board members appeared stunned by news of Esposito’s retirement — and questioned why Fuller waited until Esposito’s last day to inform the board of his departure, video of the online Aug. 31 executive committee meeting shows.
Fuller’s announcement, revealed 20 minutes into the meeting, was met with audible gasps and at least one shocked “oh my God.”
“It would have been good if we had known about this two weeks ago,” Del Teague, the board’s second vice chair, told Fuller.
“Not for nothing, but there’s going to be accruals on the district manager salary line,” warned board financial secretary Maria Viera.
Then there is the question of what CB1 ought to do with the board’s SUV.
“We have to make a decision about the car, how we wanna handle the car,” Fuller, the board chair, said at the meeting. Esposito had defended the car’s purchase by saying that he had used it to shuttle Fuller to and from board meetings, THE CITY previously reported.
Johanna Pulgarin, who answered the board’s phone number on Friday, said board members were not allowed to answer questions about Esposito’s retirement and directed a reporter to email Fuller, who did not respond.
“There’s a lot of frustration,” board member Katie Horowitz said in an interview Friday. “People were really upset at the level of miscommunication”
She added: “The executive committee and the full board should have been notified immediately. And I think it’s surprising that we weren’t.”
Horowitz said that a search committee for a new district manager has already been identified.
Local Council member Lincoln Restler, and representatives for fellow Council member Jennifer Gutiérrez, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, attended a third meeting about the issue on Sep. 13, this time before the full board. Representatives for the borough president assured the board that their office would assist them through the transition.
Stephanie Guzman, a spokesperson for the borough president’s office, told THE CITY that the borough president’s office “has been in communication with Community Board 1 and are aware of their staffing shortages.”
“We are connecting them to the relevant city agencies to support them through this transition, as would be extended to any of the borough’s 18 community boards.”
Though rumors of his departure were already swirling, Esposito only informed the full board of his retirement in a late-night email on Sept. 6 — a week after his last day on the job.
“Hear Ye ! Hear Ye !” he wrote.
“Please be advised that after 45 years and 65 days of Exemplary Service to the City of New York and Community Board #1, Brooklyn. Mr. Esposito has retired ! Be Safe & Enjoy Life !”