Dec. 31, 2014 By Pat Dorfman (contributing writer)
Political figures, friends and associates of Joseph Conley, who suddenly stepped down as the Chairman of Community Board 2 earlier this month, feted him at a farewell party Monday night at Dazies Restaurant in Sunnyside.
More than 100 well wishers—consisting of board members, elected officials, police officers and business group leaders–attended and displayed obvious affection for Conley who was the chair for 23 years.
Patrick O’Brien, an attorney who was elected in Conley’s stead Dec. 4, joked that there was still time “for Joe to change his mind,” noting the many spoken accolades from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Borough President Melinda Katz, and key aides of Congressman Joseph Crowley, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Comptroller Scott Springer and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
Maloney noted that “there were only two awards that Conley has not received” in his volunteer service, a flag flying in his honor, and a note in the Congressional Record, which she was working on.
Maloney spoke appreciatively of Conley and thanked him for all his work in improving the neighborhood—particularly his work with the parks in Long Island City.
The CB2 board meeting in which Conley stepped down as chair took place on Dec. 4, the same night the executive board elections were held—which included finding his successor. A largely unchanged slate of executive board members was elected that night—with O’Brien becoming chair.
It was a contentious election since several board members complained that the new slate was elected without enough notice–given Conley’s sudden departure.
However, O’Brien, who has been on the board for 14 years, probably would have been elected chair no matter who ran for the post, according to several board members.
Conley presided over the board during the rezoning of Long Island City and Sunnyside/Woodside and served on the LIC Business Improvement District board as the long-discussed LIC building boom came to fruition.
His recent public comment in favor of developing the Sunnyside Yards, has led to some local opposition, including from City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Nevertheless, Monday night’s celebration was focused on Conley’s contribution to the community.
Conley, 67, who worked as a VP and property manager for Modell’s, ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2001, a seat won by Eric Gioia.
Conley served in the US Army and works as a volunteer for the American Cancer Association. No word is available on Conley’s future plans, but he remains on CB2 as the chairman of the Transportation Committee.
The community board consists of 50 members (each appointed by Katz or Van Bramer) who meet and act in an advisory capacity about community matters, in connection with city government.
There was no doubt as to the genuine respect from those in attendance for Conley, who was moved to tears during his remarks.
The evening was led by CB2 District Manager Debra Markell Kleinert.
Conley introduced his brother, an NYPD officer, and thanked his staff, his fellow board members, many by name, singling out 40-year board member Gertrude McDonald, 94, who called him often at 6AM to tell him what had to happen in the community and “kept me on my toes.”