Juniper Park Civic Association leaders said they believe longstanding Maspeth activist and civic member Tony Nunziato is being thwarted politically after being voted out of Maspeth Town Hall in March, where he acted as president, and removed from Community Board 5 in April.
Nunziato said he lost both posts after expressing an interest in running for political office to represent the neighborhood.
Juniper Park President Robert Holden said the removal of Nunziato, a Republican, from the town hall and community board were acts of political sabotage and that he believes both Queens County Democrats and Republicans agree not to run candidates in certain districts so an incumbent can run unopposed.
“This is Tammany Hall all over again, but in Queens,” he said. “It discourages people from voting. Tony has been a proven civic leader in the neighborhood and I'm contending the reason he was removed [from both positions] is purely political.”
But Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) and Maspeth Federal Savings President Kenneth Rudzewick, both of whom were slammed by Nunziato and Holden, said the accusations were unfounded.
Gallagher said he would like to see more Republicans get elected in Queens and that his decision not to reappoint Nunziato to the community board had nothing to do with politics.
“I'm a Republican, so normally I support Republican candidates overwhelmingly,” he said. “I'd like to see more diversity in government. Anytime you argue with the Juniper Park Civic Association, they come after you. There is nothing that could prove any of their conspiracy theories.”
Nunziato, who is a cousin of Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), said he has been on the board of directors of Maspeth Town Hall for 14 years and has acted as president for about four years. In addition, he said he has been a member of CB 5, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, for about 10 years.
Earlier this year, Nunziato, who owns a flower shop in Maspeth, said he expressed some interest in running for political office in the future, potentially against state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), who founded Maspeth Town Hall.
“People come up to me on the street and say, 'I think you should run for office,' and I've said, 'I'll think about it,'” Nunziato said. “Why can't I even think of running for office without repercussions?”
Rudzewick said he asked Nunziato to give him a “gentleman's agreement” to step down as president of Maspeth Town Hall because he believed that a Nunziato run against Markey could pull apart the organization, a move that Nunziato said he thought was inappropriate. Nunziato was ousted as president by a vote of 54-6 in March, but Juniper Park leaders said several dozen supporters of Markey signed up to be members of the town hall on the day of the election with the intention of voting out Nunziato.
Markey could not be reached for comment.
Soon afterward, Nunziato, who remains on the town hall's board of directors, said he learned in April that he would no longer serve on CB 5.
Gallagher said he did not remove Nunziato from the board but chose not to reappoint him. Instead, he appointed Middle Village resident Danny O'Connor.
“Tony had served his term and I thought new blood on the community board was not a bad thing,” Gallagher said.
But Holden said both Nunziato and O'Connor should be able to serve because a board can have 50 members, but CB 5 only has 47 members. Half of a community board's members are recommended by the Council member from the district and all are appointed by the borough president.
In the recent issue of the Juniper Berry, the civic's monthly publication, a story by member Edward Kampermann contends that Nunziato was voted out of Maspeth Town Hall and not reappointed to CB 5 to allow local politicians to run unopposed in their districts.
But Rudzewick said there is not an effort to stall Nunziato's potential political career.
“Tony thinks we are trying to thwart him in his efforts, but I don't really care if he runs or not,” he said. “I wish him luck.”
Nunziato said he still may run for political office, but did not know whether he would toss his hat in the ring for state Assembly or City Council.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.