CB3 Member Ayo Harrington Calls Decision Not to Reappoint Her a “Shameful Outcome”
Ayo Harrington, a member of Community Board 3 passed over for reappointment, is not going quietly. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced appointments to all 12 community boards earlier this month. At the time, a spokesperson confirmed that Harrington, installed by Brewer’s predecessor in 2013, was dropped from CB3. The decision raised some eyebrows since Harrington has been an outspoken critic of the board’s leadership, filing an equal opportunity complaint against CB3 Chairperson Gigi Li last year.
During remarks at last night’s board meeting, she said a “huge number of people in this community,” including some board members, “believe that my speaking out about issues of race and inclusion” led to the decision. Although she did not mention the borough president by name, Harrington called the move “inexcusable.”
I think my not being reappointed, I don’t even need to think, I know, it’s an embarrassment. It is an embarrassment for the community that claims to be so progressive that the idea of discussing race is something that, in theory, everyone is always eager to do… unless we’re talking about it in a practical sense as it relates to the people in this room… This is a shameful outcome.
In her equal opportunity complaint, Harrington criticized the lack of diversity in the board’s leadership. Last night she said, “There is not one shred of doubt that I have, nor do any of you, that my raising the issue contributed to the appointment of three Black women to leadership positions, including one who was denied the position to begin with.” Harrington added that she’s still disappointed that no Latino members have assumed leadership roles. “The issues that I have with Community Board 3,” Harrington concluded, “are still going to be the issues that I have with Community Board 3: transparency, behavior, exclusion. All of those things remain important to me. The only change here is that my voice has gotten much stronger and my voice is going to get much louder.”
Two other members chimed in last night about the reappointment decision. Val Jones, a Black woman who was appointed to head the health and human services committee after being passed over, said, “It sends a horrendous message to young people” when someone who spoke out is not reappointed. Anne Johnson agreed, saying, “What message does this send to the rest of us? A pretty chilling message I would say.” She added, “This action against Ayo Harrington is despicable and must be rectified.”
In response to Jones and Johnson, Brewer’s community affairs director, Lucille Songhai, simply said, “Thank you for your comment.” This morning, a spokesperson told us, “The Manhattan Borough President’s Office does not comment on the specifics of individual Community Board appointments.”