Shocking Accusations of Bullying, Payoffs Made at Recent Community Board 7 Meeting

Community Board 7 Election Allegations

(Youtube / CB7)

Things took a wild turn during the last full Community Board 7 (CB7) meeting on October 3. Before the election of new board officers, board member Madelyn Innocent made startling accusations against board chair nominee Shelly Fine, saying that he paid money to the Tenant Association president of Douglass Houses to harass her when they were both on the CB7 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Task Force.


Innocent said, “I was bullied, threatened on many occasions,” before accusing Fine of being “toxic,” “conniving,” as well as “manipulative and deceptive on many occasions.” Innocent proclaimed “I got receipts,” likely referring to the alleged payoffs, as well as two police reports allegedly stating the Douglass Tenant Association (TA) president hit her, harassed her and kicked her dog. Fine wound up losing the election for board chair to Beverly Donohue.

When Innocent ran over her allotted time, chairman of the election committee Joshua Cohen tried to step in, but Innocent steamrolled him. “No, no … I should be respected, too, and I want to continue what I’m saying.”

Then, board member Ethel Sheffer jumped in, “Is there a time frame? Is there a time limit?” Innocent fired right back at Sheffer, shouting, “You stay out of it, Ethel. You are one of those people who harassed me too. So, don’t say anything.”

Innocent went on to say, “That’s why we are where we are in this country. Because people like me are not allowed to speak and from day one I wasn’t allowed to speak and I’m going to speak today. Shelly is not the person to be chair when he pays someone to harass me.” Innocent, a CB7 member since 2013, also mentioned that she’s been “bullied and beat up” by other board members for eight and half years, but she wasn’t going to name them. “You all know who you are sitting on the board right now.”

Innocent spoke for roughly five minutes, also calling out the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), which Fine has been the president of for the past 23 years. Fine has also served as co-director of Friends of the Bloomingdale Inclusive Park and Playground since 2019, and he’s been the team chief of the Upper West Side Community Emergency Response Team since 2007. Fine served as the CB7 Board Chair from 2005-2007.

Once finished, Cohen gave Fine the floor to respond.


“First of all, this character assassination is despicable and 99% untrue,” said Fine. “The only thing I ever did with money, going back, maybe 15-20 years, was raising money for ‘family day’ at Douglass Houses because NYCHA did not provide it.” Fine followed by saying, “I never abused anybody. All these things are just outrageous.”

Fine went on to disclose that he was removed from the NYCHA task force after putting on a “wonderful event” for reasons he doesn’t know, but said he had the support of “15 people who were leaders in NYCHA.” Fine also pointed out that he helped NYCHA get a vaccine site during the pandemic because of WSFSSH, before saying, “I have a good relationship with all the elected leaders of NYCHA and I think that a lot of this is very scandalous. Comments are totally out of order and should have been stopped after less than a minute.”

Innocent jumped right back in, shouting, “Only you can yell. Only you can yell, right? You don’t remember that when you yelled and said you yelled and said you were entitled to speak?”

Again, Cohen tried to calm the tension. “I’m just asking everybody to take a breath.” Innocent responded, “I’m not taking a breath. Shelly is … He, No. No. No. No.” Cohen was able to get control of the situation at this point, saying Innocent had her chance to speak her piece and now it was time for everyone else.

CB7 continued with its board officer election that evening, with Fine losing the board chair seat to Donohue.

ILTUWS reached out to Innocent, offering her a platform to speak more on the issues she was raising at the CB7 meeting. We also asked if she could share the “receipts” of payoffs she accused Fine of making, as well as the police reports regarding the Douglass TA president attacking her and her dog. We never heard back after multiple attempts.


ILTUWS was able to connect with Carmen Quinones, the TA resident of the Douglass Houses since 2017, beating Innocent in two elections for the role. Quinones told us she does not communicate at all with Innocent. “Madelyn is not in her right mind. I don’t have time for people who just have negative attitudes. My residents don’t want anything to do with her. I work for the residents.” Quinones told us in an email she will being suing Innocent for slander.

In a statement to ILTUWS, Quinones disclosed, “Shelly Fine has never paid me for anything! And has never done BBQs for Douglass [House] since I’ve been elected. So, if that happened, it wasn’t on my watch, period. Madelyn has harassed me and even turned residents against me a couple of years ago. Now, the same people she put against me sit on my board. And we do great work together.”

In regard to how CB7 handled the evening, Quinones said “It was appalling how they let this woman disrespect and belittle a man like Mr. Fine! Someone who I have a great deal of respect for. When I needed him, he volunteered his service free of charge. He’s always there for TA presidents in different developments — more than I can say about CB7, who has shown very little respect for the residents of public housing and TA presidents.” Quinones also felt CB7 needs term limits for its members and a diverse board that represents everyone. “It needs to be dismantled; they can’t even control their executive board, sadly!”

ILTUWS also caught up with Cynthia Tibbs, who serves as the president of the Westside Urban Renewal Brownstones (NYCHA) and second vice chair of the Manhattan South District Council of Presidents (NYCHA). Tibbs told us, “Madeline gets frustrated because she loses. She attacks anyone and everyone that does not vote for her,” in reference to Quinones winning elections over Innocent for the TA president of Douglass Houses. “So, clearly Douglass housing residents feel that Carmen is the most equipped person to handle such a huge development. Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep voting her in. And every time they vote her in, Madelyn contests the elections. She says they’re corrupt and she always loses the challenge, which makes her even angrier.”


Tibbs issued this statement to ILTUWS:

“After nominees gave statements, board member Madelyn Innocent proceeded to give a statement assassinating the character of Sheldon Fine. She accused him of giving cash payments to the TA president of Douglass Houses, she accused him of manipulating the TA board. Her behavior and outbursts that were on the Zoom meeting were outright disgusting of a board member.

“I have continually stated that this board is out of control and that the Manhattan Borough president needs to step in and do some restructurings, as the previous chairs — with the exception of Steven Brown — have never been able to gain control of these meetings or the board members’ behavior during meetings. They tend to go off topic and make meetings about themselves rather than about the community.
“It was extremely disturbing to see that nobody took charge to cut Madelyn off, but rather let her go on a character assassination tangent for over three minutes. This was completely unacceptable and deplorable behavior, unbecoming of a community board member.
“If board members cannot behave and conduct themselves in a cohesive manner, what chance does the community have? Who will be the next victim the board goes after? Will it be another member or another NYCHA president?”

ILTUWS reached out to newly elected Board Chair Beverly Donohue to see how CB7 was handling the aftermath of the accusations Innocent made against Fine. We also asked if Donohue thought it was possible that Innocent’s remarks, while unconfirmed, could have swayed the election, and asked if any investigation or disciplinary action could be in order.

Donohue responded, “A number of members Monday night raised concerns about the level of contentiousness in our meetings over the last several years. It is a priority of the board to address that problem. As Madelyn apologized for her remarks, I consider the issue closed.”

When asked if Innocent retracted what she said in the CB7 meeting, Donohue responded, “It was a private apology, sorry.”


Fine shared with ILTUWS an apology note he said that Innocent wrote to him on October 4, a day after the election:

“Good morning Shelly,

“I am writing you to apologize for my behavior and this was years of harassment I endured on CB7 that exploded in this meeting. I hope you could clearly understand my frustration for years. But that is no excuse for the way [ I] spoke. Going forward I hope we can work together along with Beverly and others to work as a team. Again, my apologies and have a great day.”

Following the election, ILTUWS connected with Fine to discuss the results.

When asked if he thought Cohen made a mistake to let Innocent run overtime and if that was unusual, Fine told us: “The first mistake was to allow comments, when only questions were to be allowed. I think that it should have been muted right away. To go overtime is unusual.”

Fine issued ILTUWS this statement:

“Madelyn’s remarks are completely unfounded. They are slanderous and were clearly premeditated. Madelyn did not make a public apology or admit that her statements were not true. This was a vicious premeditated attempt at character assassination and meant to discredit me as a candidate. She could have easily been muted.

“Furthermore, the meeting proceeded with no comment or reaction to what had occurred. Strangely, the meeting proceeded as a normal uneventful meeting would. With no public apology to me and the board and no public admission that her statements were untrue, how could anyone think that the matter is closed?
“I am awaiting the board leadership and those who oversee our community boards to speak out and take appropriate action. This was perhaps the most vicious attack on a board member in the history of CB7. The silence thus far is deafening. Board members, community participants and elected representatives beware: If it can happen to me and it is not addressed, it can happen to you.
“I ran to help restore some calm, transparency and needed service to our community.
“I have had a proven record of meaningful and actionable leadership on the board and the community. We owe it to our community to do much better.”

ILTUWS reached out to Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who previously served on the New York City Council representing the Upper West Side from 2014-2021. In response to the events that took place at the CB7 election meeting on October 3, Levine’s press secretary issued us this statement: “Our office is not an investigatory body, outside of a formal EEO. We have a code of conduct policy on our website and expect all board members to adhere to it.”

When sharing this statement with Fine, we asked if he had any plans to file a formal EEO. Fine responded, “At this time, I do not have plans for action. I have serious responsibilities in my community organizational life. So, I must check with their lawyers and my own before taking any action.”

We’ll provide updates as things develop. Here’s a video of the meeting (starting at about the 56 minute mark, when the accusations begin):

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