Volume 19 Issue 46 | March 30 - April 5, 2007

Stringer goes with youth movement at C.B. 1

By Skye H. McFarlane with Josh Rogers

For the second year in a row, Borough President Scott Stringer fulfilled his promise to appoint Manhattan community board members on time, leaving no vacancies. Downtown, the B.P. announced that 10 new faces will be joining Community Board 1 — eight appointed directly by Stringer and two recommended by City Councilmember Alan Gerson.

Though the crop of new members is large, C.B. 1 veterans should not have much trouble learning names. Four of the new recruits currently serve as public members on the board while several others are actively involved with local community organizations.

C.B. 1 Chairperson Julie Menin praised Stringer for his selections, saying that the new appointees will help the board to better reflect the population of the Downtown community. In particular, she said, the new appointees will help represent the interests of women, parents and the Asian American population.

“On our board there are very few parents with school-aged children, yet those are some of most important issues that we deal with. So I’m delighted that they’ll be contributing their perspective,” Menin said. “We want our board to be as representative of the community as possible.”

New members Ann DeFalco, Dennis Gault, Mariama James, Mark Costello and Liz Lamere are all local parents who have worked on youth issues such as smaller class sizes, school bus service and better recreational facilities. James and Costello were recommended to Stringer by Gerson.

A board’s local councilmember recommends half of the 50 positions, but the borough president has final say on all appointments. This year, most of the openings for the unpaid, two-year terms on C.B. 1 were borough president slots.

Michael Skidmore was reappointed by Stringer as a full board member after losing his appointment and serving as a public member in 2006.

The new members will also represent business interests, with Michael Ketring, the general counsel for the Downtown Alliance (which runs the Lower Manhattan business improvement district), and Kristen Wentrcek of the JANI Real Estate development company joining the fold.

Seven of the board spots were left empty as Jennifer Hensley resigned from the board and Rodney Alexander, Janiece Brown-Spitzmueller, Sheila Rossi, Linda Roche, Tim Lannan and Raymond O’Keefe did not seek reappointment. 

Three veteran board members — Victor Papa, Ralph Pepe and Marc Donnenfeld — applied but were not reappointed. Pepe, a union executive with District Council 37 based in Lower Manhattan, said he was disappointed when he heard the news from Menin. He said Menin told him she had been planning to appoint him to succeed O’Keefe as co-chairperson of the Financial District Committee.

Pepe recalled when he was first appointed (he said it was at least 15 years ago), most of the board was made up of people who worked in the community, not residents. He thought it was important to maintain a mix of both perspectives even with Downtown’s growing residential population.

Papa, a Southbridge Towers resident, said Stringer was right not to reappoint him. The borough president is moving “to reform the community boards and I only have positive things to say,” Papa said. “I’m completely okay with this.”

C.B. 1 includes some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods and Papa spends most of his days a few blocks to the north of C.B. 1’s boundary running two social service organizations that fight for affordable housing and immigrant rights on the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

“Sometimes I thought I’m living in two different worlds,” he said. “What am I doing here?” He said he enjoyed his decade-plus time on the board and praised his fellow members for their dedication to the community.

Donnenfeld did not return a call. Stringer was not available for comment this week.

The New Members:

Mark Costello: Best known Downtown as the president of the Downtown Little League, Costello lives on White St. in Tribeca and has two school-aged children. An adjunct professor at Fordham Law School, Costello said he was pleasantly surprised that he had won the C.B. 1 appointment. Costello plans to use his time on the board to advocate for bigger and better recreational facilities to serve Downtown’s growing youth population.

“I’ve seen first-hand that people really do listen to them,” Costello said of the board. “I really believe that Julie Menin is committed to fixing the problem of kid infrastructure in the community.”

Ann DeFalco: Currently a C.B. 1 public member, DeFalco lives in Southbridge Towers and works in the library at Pace University. The co-president of the Southbridge Towers Youth and Parent Committee, DeFalco has been outspoken on education issues like school crowding, the recent bus fiasco and the citywide plans to revamp the educational system. She has also spoken out in support of 9/11-related health care for Downtown residents, office workers and students.

Dennis Gault: A P.S. 89 parent and Battery Park City resident, Gault has been a public member of C.B. 1 since 2005. Gault teaches art at P.S. 19 in the East Village and serves as co-president of the P.S. 89 Parent Teacher Association. As a parent and a teacher, Gault said he is committed to finding ways to reduce class size in the local schools and secure more school seats in the neighborhood.

“I think public education in the neighborhood is good but there’s room for improvement,” Gault said. “I see things from the point of view of both an educator and a parent, and what’s amazing is the interests align. I want the same things as a parent that I do as a teacher.”

Mariama James: James, the other co-president of the Southbridge Towers Youth and Parent Committee, is currently a public member serving on the Youth and Education Committee and the New Schools Task Force. A Southbridge resident, she also serves as vice president of the P.S. 234 P.T.A. Like many of the new appointees, James has a special interest in education issues. She has also been an advocate for post-9/11 health care.

“I truly value this full membership appointment and the voice and vote that it will afford me,” James said.

Michael Ketring: Formerly on the staff of the Battery Park City Authority, Ketring, an attorney, now serves as general counsel for the Downtown Alliance. A Financial District resident and parent, Ketring served on the residents’ council of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation after 9/11.

Jin “P.J.” Kim: With an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a combined M.B.A./M.P.A. from Harvard, Kim has used his considerable education to carve out a career in the non-profit field. He works as the director of income policy for FoodChange, a group that helps underserved populations access assistance programs like food stamps and free tax preparation. Kim lives on the Upper West Side.

Liz Lamere: A 23-year resident of the Financial District, Lamere wears many hats. A former corporate attorney with a Columbia Law School pedigree, she currently works as a legal recruiter while spending her spare time touring in Europe with her husband’s musical group. She serves on the co-op board of 3 Hanover Square and the board of directors of the Downtown Little League — in which her 8-year-old son plays. Lamere said she wants to work to secure more recreational space on the East Side, as well as open up discussions about the Mayor’s proposed school reorganization.

“I think we’re at such a critical time, with so many pressing issues facing C.B. 1 as it becomes an increasingly mixed-use community with tremendous residential growth,” Lamere said. “It’s critical to have a representative voice on the board to balance those interests.”

Chelsea-Lyn Rudder: Rudder is the executive director for the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council.

Michael Skidmore: After 10 years on the board, Skidmore lost his appointment last year. He is back this year, however, and grateful to have a vote again. Skidmore has stayed busy during his absence, serving as a public member of the C.B. 1 Seaport and Financial District Committees, a member of the board of directors of the Downtown Alliance, and a leader on the 130 Water St. condo board. Skidmore is very interested in how the new park projects on the East Side will develop. He is also concerned about the potential effects of the Department of Transportation’s new contingency plan for the traffic on lower Broadway.

“I want to thank everyone on board for their support and encouragement and confidence,” Skidmore said. “I’m glad to be back in such good company.”

Kristen Wentrcek: An East Village resident, Wentrcek works in Tribeca. She is an assistant project manager for JANI Real Estate at 40 Worth St. Wentrcek is also a gardener.

The new appointees will officially become board members on April 1.

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