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BY LESLEY SUSSMAN | Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li easily coasted to re-election to a third term at last week’s full-board meeting, beating challenger Chad Marlow. Li won about two-thirds of the board, by a vote of 31 to 15.
Marlow has been a frequent and outspoken critic of Li’s leadership of the 50-member volunteer board. Four members were absent for the vote.
Marlow is aligned with a faction of board members who recently accused Li of racial insensitivity because of her failure to appoint any African-American or Latino members to chair C.B. 3 committees. Li and her supporters have strongly denied the accusations.
Marlow also argued that Li had mishandled several other high-profile flare-ups during her two-year tenure.
Marlow, a senior policy adviser with the city’s Department of Health, had pledged that, if elected, he would appoint an executive committee and committee chairpersons that “reflect the diversity of the community board and the community it serves.”
After the results of the paper-ballot vote were announced June 24 evening, Li told Downtown Express, “I’m excited and thankful that there were enough board members who felt that I should be afforded a third year to make some changes and continue on the projects that I’ve been working on.”
The C.B. 3 chairperson added that she was more than willing to work closely with those board members who opposed her re-election.
“Everyone plays a really important role on this board,” she said.
Li added, “There have been some real issues that have been raised in this process, and I think a lot of those can be addressed with structural and leadership changes.”
In her earlier, two-minute, pre-vote comments, Li, who is director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, acknowledged it had been a challenging year for her. Addressing an audience of more than 100 local residents, she focused her remarks on her years growing up in an immigrant family on Canal St.
“This community is my home,” she said. “The hopes and dreams that my parents had for me are the same hopes and dreams that many of the residents of this community continue to strive for — and those are opportunity, access and equity. These are the same values I bring to you as board chairperson.”
Marlow, during his pre-vote remarks, chose not to speak about his personal background, but about the need for change on the community board.
“I think, unfortunately, because in large part how this board had been operated, the community has lost a lot of faith in our board,” he said.
After the election results were announced, Marlow told this newspaper that he was “not disappointed” with the outcome.
“I think the board got to raise some important issues that need to be discussed over the next year,” he said. “I think we’re going to need to move forward and work on them together.
“For anyone to challenge the existing power structure is difficult, but what’s most important is that we now all come together,” he added. “I think the board is going to do that, but in order to bring the community in and make them feel better about this vote, it’s going to take some work. I think we’re all going to have to engage in that work.”
Ayo Harrington, an African-American C.B. 3 member, helped fuel the revolt against Li with her stinging accusation of racism. Harrington filed a complaint with the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, charging Li with refusing to appoint qualified black and Latino members who wanted to chair committees.
Harrington, a strong Marlow ally, said she was “very, very disappointed by the outcome.”
“I think for this community board to have facts in front of their faces that are irrefutable, and then not vote for change after Li’s proven two-year record of exclusion of minorities and the inefficiencies of her running of board meetings is inexcusable,” she said.
Harrington, however, did offer a conciliatory note.
“Regardless of who won,” she said, “all of us are members of a 50-member board and we’re all going to have to work together.”
She emphasized, though, that that doesn’t mean she thinks things at C.B. 3 are all kumbaya.
“I’m not saying this is a call for unity because I’m not going to pretend that there’s unity on this board,” she said. “We’ll see whether or not changes are going to be made, but I strongly suspect that changes will be made because someone feels forced to make them rather than knowing that it’s the right thing to do. And therein lies the hurt to the community.”
Board member Kate Webster, one of Li’s most ardent supporters, said she believed Li was “going to move the board forward.”
“The board will get smarter and we’ll unify,” Webster said. “I think the point that was made was an important point and now we need to move forward. That’s what a good board does.”
Former C.B. 3 Chairperson Dominic Berg stated he was pleased by the whole process.
“Gigi heard about some issues and she’s going to make changes,” he said. “I think a large majority of the board saw that, which is why they voted for her.”
Despite the dramatic buildup to the election, with charges and denials of racism flying back and forth, the evening’s proceedings were relatively sedate, without the excitement or divisiveness that many board members had anticipated.
Only Li and Marlow were involved in a contest, while all other candidates for board officer positions — ranging from treasurer to recording secretary — were unanimously re-elected.
Herman Hewitt was re-elected first vice chairperson; Ricky Leung, second vice chairperson; Carlina Rivera, secretary; Jamie Rogers, assistant secretary; and Bill LoSasso, treasurer.
Voting for Li were David Adams, Dominic Berg, Karen Blatt, Karlin Chan, Jimmy Cheng, MyPhuong Chung, David Crane, Enrique Cruz, Morris Faitelwicz, Flora Ferng, Gloria Goldenberg, Herman Hewitt, Linda Jones, Meghan Joye, Lisa Kaplan, Carol Kostik, Ben Landy, Mae Lee, John Leo, Ricky Leung, Alysha Lewis-Coleman, Li, Bill LoSasso, Alexandra Militano, Chiun Ng, Richard Ropiak, Christopher Santana, Josephine Velez, Kathleen Webster, Justin Yu and Thomas Yu.
Voting for Marlow were Lisa Burriss, Justin Carroll, Jan Hanvik, Ayo Harrington, Anne Johnson, Vaylateena Jones, Marlow, Ariel Palitz, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Joyce Ravitz, Carlina Rivera, James Rogers, Susan Scheer, Nancy Sparrow-Bartow and Rodney Washington.
Not present were Penina Mezei, Teresa Pedroza, Julie Ulmet and Zulma Zayas.