By Julie Shapiro
The beginning of April means it’s time for new community board members.
This week, Borough President Scott Stringer announced six new members for Community Board 1. They include a variety of Downtowners, from a lifelong resident to a recent transplant, and they represent neighborhoods from the Seaport to Battery Park City.
The board received many applications for the six spots, said Julie Menin, chairperson of C.B. 1. “There were a lot of tremendously qualified people,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
The board will get political expertise in the form of Paul Viggiano, 65, who was Lower Manhattan’s Assemblymember from 1978 to 1984. Viggiano has been involved in community activities for his entire adult life, so serving on the community board will just be a continuation of that, he said.
“To have someone of Paul’s background, with years of experience, will be very, very helpful,” Menin said. “We plan on getting him extremely involved.”
A lifelong Lower Manhattan resident, Viggiano lives in Southbridge Towers with his wife and son, Matt, who works for City Councilmember Alan Gerson and attends many C.B. 1 meetings.
“I have a lot of fun with my son, I’ve gotta tell you,” said the elder Viggiano, also a former Southbridge board president. “He’ll be a great help to me, I’ll tell you that, because he’s been going to all these meetings. It’ll be easy for me to catch up on this stuff.”
Paul Viggiano, who works as an I.T. director in Brooklyn, looks forward to joining the World Trade Center Redevelopment and Seaport/Civic Center committees. He wants to make sure work is progressing at the World Trade Center site, and he has another concern that will find many sympathizers among current C.B. 1 member: “Obviously Deutsche Bank is still out there,” Viggiano said of the contaminated building that needs to be demolished. “We’ve got to make sure when that building comes down, it comes down in a safe way.”
Another new-but-familiar face for many on the board is Jeff Mihok, 40, who has lived in Battery Park City since 2004. With daughters ages 8 and 4, Mihok is particularly passionate about youth and education issues. He got involved with the community board last year while advocating for a new school at Site 2B. But the work for the school is not done, Mihok said.
“My No. 1 priority is to help make sure the school is zoned first for Battery Park City and Community Board 1 the people that made it happen,” Mihok said.
As assistant principal of the Academy for Young Writers, a public high school in Brooklyn, Mihok thinks he can provide a unique perspective to C.B. 1’s Youth and Education Committee. It is very important for local schools to be zoned for the neighborhood, he said, because otherwise it is more difficult to create a community. At the Academy for Young Writers, which takes students from all over the city, the geographical differences present an additional challenge to the staff, Mihok said.
Mihok is looking forward to fighting for the amenities that are missing in Battery Park City, a neighborhood he said has become far more family-oriented than the transient community of Wall St. workers that planners envisioned. “It’s always interesting,” he said of working on the community board. “Sometimes it’s depressing, sometimes inspiring.”
Another new member, Tiffany Winbush, 25, moved to the Financial District three years ago and knew she wanted to get involved in local government. She took a seminar at the Borough of Manhattan Community College about running for political office, but decided the community board would be a better way to get started.
So far, Winbush is most excited about joining the Youth and Education Committee.
“Lots of youth don’t feel they can participate and get involved [in Lower Manhattan],” Winbush said. “I want them to feel that this is home, this is for you, you can participate in it.”
She also hopes to address affordable housing, an issue that she imagines is especially difficult for single parents. (Winbush and her husband have no children yet though Winbush said C.B. 1 is a great place to raise a family.)
Winbush works in public relations at Katz Media Group and spends much of her free time volunteering. She mentors high school girls through the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., helps with Hands On New York, a cleanup campaign, and organized a food and volunteer drive over the holidays.
Winbush, who grew up in Louisiana, said her love of C.B. 1 was solidified when she saw the outpouring of support from many local nonprofits after Hurricane Katrina. It’s one thing for local groups to care about local issues, she said, “but they also wanted to reach out and help others. That’s wonderful.”
A welcome addition to the Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee will be John Foss, 31, who started attending C.B. 1 meetings after moving to Lower Manhattan last year. He recently received his masters in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and wants to put his experience into action. Foss became a public member on the Planning Committee several months ago.
“I wanted to contribute to the community in a tangible way,” Foss said. “One of the reasons I wanted to move to Lower Manhattan is I feel that it’s undergoing a complete transformation.”
At Tufts, Foss gained expertise in zoning and also took several courses in transportation planning. He will definitely join the Planning Committee, but since he lives on the border of Tribeca and the Financial District, he has not yet decided which geographical committee to join. He currently works in human resources at Random House.
Elizabeth Williams and Megan McHugh were also appointed but could not be reached for interviews.
The new appointments meant that the community board also had to lose members. Eric Anderson, Laura Braddock, Margaret Fung, Rick Landman, Joe Morrone, Andy Neale and George Olsen are no longer on the board.
Morrone and Olsen both left the board before reappointment time, Morrone because he got a job that conflicted with meetings and Olsen because he wasn’t able to devote the time that the meetings required. Rick Landman also left the board voluntarily, after arguments over the role of the Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee. Fung, a 20-year board member and also the executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, also did not reapply but said she would remain involved in Lower Manhattan issues.
Anderson applied but was not reappointed. Stringer has said he wants regular turnover on the board.
Neale, whose assault arrests were recently made known to Stringer, also was not reappointed.