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Dering Harbor fills vacant trustee seat, reshuffles boards

The new Dering Harbor Village board met Saturday,

The new Dering Harbor Village board met Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, at Village Hall. From left, Karen Kelsey, Patrick Parcells, Mayor John Colby Jr., Elizabeth "Betsy" Morgan and Ari Benacerraf. Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner

Dering Harbor Village officials have appointed a new trustee, who previously challenged the former mayor for his position, and eight new board members after allegations of nepotism led to a political shake-up in the state’s smallest village.

Patrick Parcells, a retired Wall Street banker, was sworn in Saturday to fill the trustee seat left vacant by John Colby Jr., who was appointed mayor last month.

Officials said they also appointed new members to the village’s architectural review board, planning board and zoning board of appeals to ensure that 19 of the village’s 21 positions are held by people from different households.

“It’s a new day,” said trustee Karen Kelsey. “The change in the board of trustees is truly significant and it reflects the will of the majority of residents who really are engaged.”

The second-home community with 11 full-time residents and 39 housing units has undergone a political upheaval this summer after residents said they became frustrated with trustees serving on multiple boards and appointing their relatives to village positions.

The village board is now filled entirely by newcomers after Ari Benacerraf, Elizabeth “Betsy” Morgan and Kelsey defeated incumbents Heather Brownlie, Kirk Ressler and Richard Smith in June’s election with the support of nearly all 81 registered voters.

Colby is the third mayor to hold office since July 1, when Tim Hogue resigned after serving for 25 years. Hogue was briefly replaced by Ressler, who stepped down July 15.

All board positions are unpaid, and residents do not need to live in Dering Harbor full time to vote or serve on boards.

Colby said he picked Parcells to be trustee because residents “felt disenfranchised, and Patrick represented the quick change everyone wanted.”

Parcells, 66, challenged Hogue for mayor in 2014 and was defeated in a runoff. Parcells also helped organize the campaigns of Benacerraf, Morgan and Kelsey in June’s election.

Trustees appointed Ressler, Stuart Goldman and Clora Kelly to the planning board. Ken Walker and Bob Ruttenberg were added to the zoning board of appeals. Stephanie Deutsch was approved for the architectural review board alongside Michael Kostow, who is already on the planning board, and Alfredo Paredes. Paredes and his husband are suing the village over a 25-foot strip of land on their lawn that officials say they do not own. The couple wanted to build a front porch, and the dispute has created tension that facilitated the village’s political unraveling.

James Goldman, a Dering Harbor resident who lives primarily in Manhattan, said the village has become more open with the new trustees and mayor.

“I’ve already seen a change in two meetings,” Goldman said.

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