Downtown Brooklyn

Vital grass roots input, neighborhood passion organized and focused through community boards

Borough President’s office inducted 179 new members in ceremony, swearing in a total of 497

May 8, 2023 Helen Klein
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BOROUGH HALL — They put the community into community board, and on the evening of Thursday, May 4, Brooklyn’s newest community board members were sworn in at Borough Hall and virtually, via Zoom, by the borough’s Deputy Borough President Kim Council.

Kim Council, Deputy Borough President.

Standing at the front of Borough Hall’s ceremonial courtroom, Council emphasized the important role that community board members play as conduits between the people who live in Brooklyn and city government.

“Bridging the gap between people and government is a huge responsibility,” Council stressed. “When we work together, we can always honor the things that bind us together, our love of Brooklyn.” Serving on a community board, she added, is “the most grassroots, most real version of democracy out on our streets.”

A total of 497 people were sworn in as community board members, 179 of whom are beginning their first terms.

The new board members were excited to be part of the endeavor, and eager to get started.

“We’re all in this together,” noted Sara Radelet, who was just appointed to CB 6, which includes Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Gowanus and the Columbia Street Waterfront District. “You can’t sit back and expect other people to do it. You have to participate. I’m donating my time and energy so the community can be a better place for everyone.”

Marie Mirville-Shahzada, new member of CB 10.

Marie Mirville-Shahzada, who is a new member of CB 10, which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton, said she had come to the board after years of advocacy on behalf of families and employees in area schools.

As a longtime Department of Education employee, Mirville-Shahzada said she found herself aiding people with such issues as immigration, child care and food security. That led, eventually, to founding a not-for-profit organization, Alfadila Community Services which advocates for children with special needs as well as small businesses in the neighborhood.

“I’m hoping to be the voice for a lot of other people who are not on the community board,” Mirville-Shahzada said. “I believe we can all work together for the best interests of the community.”

Anika Roach, new member of CB 8.

Anika Roach, who is a new member of CB 8, which includes North Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Weeksville, said watching her neighborhood change over the years had been a motivating factor for her to seek community board membership.

Issues she is keenly aware of, she said, include housing, rodent infestation, public safety and businesses closing. “We have a lot of old businesses closing, and a lot of new ones popping up,” Roach said. “I want to represent the people in the community, learn what they want to see and what they are experiencing.”

Hassan Mamun, an architect who has just joined CB 2, which encompasses Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Vinegar Hill, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, told this paper that working in local government had motivated him to join the board.

“Because of my policy background,” he said, “I’ve seen what can be done. I’ve seen how policy can make a change, and living in the community, I also know the need.” He’s particularly interested, he said, in land use and economic development issues.

Pierre Lehu, whose wife was late CB 10 Chair Joanne Seminara, said he had decided to become a part of CB 10 “in honor of Joanne,” who died last December.

“I’m still working but not that hard, and I can’t stay home all day, so I’m trying to do other things, and this is one of them,” he noted. “I’ve attended so many community board meetings, talked with Joanne so often about issues, so I have a decent understanding of what it means.”

Daniel McCabe, who works for DC37, brings to his new role as a CB 17 member an interest in union politics, but also a love for his adopted community of East Flatbush, which joins Remsen Village, Rugby, Farragut/Hyde Park, Ditmas Village and Erasmus to make up the board’s catchment area.

“When I first moved into the neighborhood, I had no attachment to it,” he recalled. “But, the longer I lived there, the more it wasn’t just having an apartment to go to work from. So, I started attending meetings.” Now, as a member, he said, “I want to see what’s available for my neighborhood.”

Yuriy Krasner, member of CB 13.

Yuriy Krasner, who lives in Sea Gate, joined CB 13, which includes also Coney Island, Gravesend and Brighton Beach, “to help the community.” Issues he said that are of particular interest to him include the casino being proposed for Coney Island, as well as the proposed ferry service.

He is particularly concerned about changes that increase crowds in the area, which has limited access points. “On July 4 [when the area is particularly crowded with visitors], there’s no way out of Coney Island. Emergency vehicles can’t even go through,” Krasner stressed.

Overall, according to Borough Hall’s Director of Community Boards Carol-Ann Church, the members sworn in on May 4 represent “one of the most diverse community board cohorts to be seated,” with an increase in the number of young members. A total of seven in this cohort are 19 or younger (you can be as young as 16 and be appointed to a community board). In addition, the number of NYCHA residents, who had been underrepresented on the boards, also increased.

Carol-Ann Church, Borough Hall’s Director of Community Boards.

Community boards, which have been in existence since 1963 and which represent the most local level of city government, have a formal role in various critical government processes. They serve an advisory role in such key issues as land use and determining budget priorities and also keep an eye on the way city services are delivered to residents. There are 59 community boards in New York City, 18 in Brooklyn, with offices in the neighborhoods they represent.

Each board is made up of 50 members, who are all volunteers serving two-year terms, and a paid staff, led by a district manager, who handle inquiries and requests from residents as well as making sure that board business runs smoothly.

Boards generally meet monthly from September through June, with additional committee meetings scheduled throughout each month. All meetings are open to the public with limited exceptions such as personnel matters and issues whose public disclosure might “imperil public safety” according to New York State’s Open Meetings Law.

SEE COMMUNITY BOARD CHRONICLE:

Read about The hidden power of community boards: shaping neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond


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