Volume 18 • Issue 5 | JUNE 24- 2, 20

Downtown Express photo by Jennifer Weisbord

Julie Menin

Menin romps in C.B. 1 race: Promises changes to committees

By Ronda Kaysen

Julie Menin won a resounding victory at Tuesday night’s Community Board 1 election, securing more than 70 percent of the vote from the 50-member board.

Emerging as the strong frontrunner from a crowded field of candidates, Menin’s substantial margin of victory surprised some board members who expected a closer race between her and interim chairperson Richard Kennedy.

“Julie got the overwhelming majority,” said Nominating Committee chairperson Ray O’Keefe, who voted for Menin, after the results were announced. “I really couldn’t tell how it was going to go. At one point, I thought there was going to be a runoff, and then I couldn’t tell.”

Of the 49 board members present at the June 21 meeting, 35 voted for Menin, 13 for Kennedy and one for Anthony Notaro. The fourth candidate, Marc Ameruso, withdrew his name from the ballot shortly before votes were cast.

Menin, a 37-year-old Financial District resident and founder of Wall Street Rising, plans to resign from her post at the non-profit organization and commit herself fulltime to the board’s unpaid activities. She begins her one-year term in July, but already is preparing to take the lead. “The community board needs to establish a short list of priorities,” she told Downtown Express shortly after the results were announced. “And act proactively to address them.”

Changes may come swiftly to the board. More than half of the Executive Committee did not vote for Menin – including Kennedy and Notaro – and some Executive Committee members (many of whom lead the various committees) may very well lose their posts once Menin takes the reigns. “First I’m going to evaluate the committees,” said Menin, who added that many board members had expressed concern to her that the board was not “inclusive” enough. “I will announce the changes shortly.”

How much the board will change remains to be seen. “They [the disgruntled board members] think that it’s going to be a more open community board, but it wasn’t not open before,” said board member Arthur Gregory, who voted for Kennedy. “They feel they’re being left out because they bellyache and whine… It’s a democracy, it’s not a free for all.”

For Menin’s fervent supporters, Wednesday night’s election results proved what they suspected all along: that she would win and win big. “I’m very happy. I’m ecstatic!” said board member Barry Skolnick outside the meeting. “There are a lot of people who wanted change and inclusiveness – even on the Executive Committee.”

“This was supposed to be a contested election, but clearly it wasn’t. It was a landslide,” said Nominating Committee member Catherine McVay Hughes in a telephone interview. “There seemed to be a momentum for Julie from early on and the momentum picked up as the campaign went on.”

The board will need to find its way through a mammoth construction era as Downtown begins the long post-9/11 rebuilding process. It also needs to negotiate ever-increasing school and other residential needs and help a neighborhood that is still struggling to economically recover from the World Trade Center disaster.

Menin, a mother of three who served on the World Trade Center memorial jury, was one of the C.B. 1 members who reviewed part of the lengthy W.T.C. environmental impact statement.

“I wish her [Menin] a great deal of luck and I wish her well,” said former chairperson Madelyn Wils in a telephone interview. Borough President C. Virginia Fields abruptly removed Wils from the board last March, setting the election process in motion.

What tips does the former chair have for her successor? “I’m not big on giving other people advice unless they ask for it,” Wils said. “If she wants to call me and ask me for advice, I’d be happy to give it.”

With the race over, Menin’s challengers are doing their best to put the campaign behind them. “I have great respect for Julie, she ran a great campaign and I really look forward to working with her,” said Kennedy in a telephone interview. Kennedy will return to his post as co-chairperson in July.

“Of course I wanted to win,” said Ameruso, who withdrew his name before the vote.

Notaro, who received only one vote, is taking a long view of the outcome. “People probably got a sense of who’s going to be the leader and decided to go with the momentum. That’s what I keep telling myself, but I am going into therapy pretty soon,” he joked.

Notaro has indicated that he might run for the position again next year and even his poor showing at last night’s election has not deterred him. “Last night was not an indication of anything of what the future might be,” he said.

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com

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