Community Board 3’s executive committee last night elected Alysha Coleman to serve as second vice chairperson. She replaces Ricky Leung, who resigned from the community board earlier this year. Coleman defeated two other candidates, Enrique Cruz and Chad Marlow. A fourth candidate, Ayo Harrington, dropped out yesterday before the vote.
A change within CB3’s executive committee is usually not all that newsworthy. But in the wake of this past year’s controversy swirling around the board, it became an unusually competitive affair. In the spring, Harrington, an African-American board member, filed a complaint with the Manhattan Borough President, alleging discrimination in Community Board 3 leadership assignments. The Borough President, Gale Brewer, repeatedly declined to publicly reveal the results of an investigation her office conducted. Marlow unsuccessfully challenged the board chairperson, Gigi Li, in this year’s election. Li promised to work in the next year toward increasing diversity in the leadership of the board’s committees. She has the sole authority to make those appointments.
Coleman, a longtime Lower East Side resident and tenant leader, was appointed to CB3 last year. While executive officers are normally elected by all 50 members of the board, CB3’s by-laws call on the executive committee alone to fill vacancies. In the first round last night, Coleman received 5 votes, while Cruz got 4 and Marlow 1. During the second vote, Coleman and Cruz were tied with 5 each. In a third round, she prevailed 7 to 3.
Before the ballots were cast, Marlow argued that he was the most experienced candidate, having served on several other community boards. He asserted that choosing him for the position would help bridge the divisions that have emerged on the board. Marlow received 15 votes when he ran for board chair. It would be analogous to Barak Obama choosing Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, he said. But Marlow, who is white, also acknowledged that CB3 would lose an opportunity to increase its leadership diversity, if he was chosen. Cruz, who founded a group that advocates for Latino residents and businesses (ALBOR), said he would bring a unique perspective to the executive committee. Coleman said she was determined to keep politics to a minimum and to be focused “on getting things done” for the community.
Since her re-election, Li has instituted a number of procedural changes that she has said are designed to give more board members a chance at leadership. No Black or Latino members lead CB3 committees. One panel, the Parks Committee, is headed by an Asian board member.
UPDATED 10:20 a.m. Following the publication of this story, we heard from Chad Marlow, who feels there’s an important aspect of his remarks last night that we did not include. Here’s what he told us in an email message:
Although I acknowledged that electing me, alone, would not advance diversity, I presented to Board with an option to bring me on board as 2nd vice chair and Vaylateena Jones as Health Committee chair (who said she would be willing to serve in the post if the board demonstrated its commitment to “opinion diversity” by electing me). That would have allowed CB3 to gain two highly experienced chairs, increase its racial diversity and gain an African-American committee chair. Passing on that option was unwise and speaks volumes about the true priorities of the Executive Committee.