June 2, 2020 By Christian Murray
Denise Keehan-Smith, who has been the chair of Community Board 2 since 2016, was dropped from the board last week without a vote being cast.
Keehan-Smith was tossed out of the position when Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee decided not to reappoint her to Community Board 2. Lee phoned her Sunday night to inform her of that decision.
Board members are appointed by the borough president and the council member of a given district. In this case it is Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who has been at odds with Keehan-Smith in recent years– particularly over the protected bicycle lanes in Sunnyside.
The announcement caught many board members by surprise since Keehan-Smith has been a popular chair. She was elected chair five times during her tenure. And it is rare for a board member not to be reappointed.
Lee announced the names Tuesday of 339 people who had been appointed or reappointed to the 14 Community Boards in Queens for the 2020-2022 term.
The decision not to reappoint Keehan-Smith follows an equal opportunity employment complaint filed against her, which was first reported by the Queens Eagle.
Debra Markell Kleinert, the long-time district manager, filed the complaint that was submitted to the borough president on March 19.
The complaint, according to the Queens Eagle, accused Keehan-Smith of being “abrasive” and “abusive.” Markell Kleinert said she was specifically targeted due to her age, disability and religion especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keehan-Smith was unaware of the complaint until she read about it in the Queens Eagle. She told the Queens Post that the allegations are “absurd.”
There is no word as to the status of that investigation.
Lee and Van Bramer were not immediately available for comment.
An earlier version of this story was titled: CB2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith Thrown Off Community Board.
The headline has been changed for the purposes of accuracy. Keehan-Smith was not thrown off the board; instead she lost her position on the board when Acting Borough President Sharon Lee in consultant with Council Member Van Bramer chose not to reappoint her.