Responding to Diversity Concerns, Community Board 3 Makes Leadership Changes

Gigi Li.

CB 3 Chairperson Gigi Li.
CB 3 Chairperson Gigi Li.

Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li last night announced several new committee appointments. The moves create greater ethnic diversity in the leadership of the board and represent a reoganization several members had urged earlier this year.  Previously, there were no Black or Latino committee heads.  Here are the changes outlined at the monthly full board meeting:

  • A new public housing subcommittee will be created. The chairperson will be Lisa Burriss, a longtime tenant organizer who grew up in NYCHA Housing on the Lower East Side.
  • The Human Services & Education Committee will be broken up into two separate panels. Justin Carroll will continue serving as head of the education panel.  Vaylateena Jones was appointed to lead a new committee focused on human services, dealing with health, disability and senior issues.  Jones, who was sharply critical of Chairperson Li’s leadership in the past year, is a registered nurse and runs an organization known as the LES Power Partnership. The two committees will meet on the same evening and in the same location.
  • Carolyn Ratcliffe will step down as chairperson of the Landmarks Subcommittee to take over the Arts Subcommittee. Ratcliffe is a longtime Lower East Side artist.
  • Landmarks will become a full committee. Li said she is seeking a new chairperson for the panel.
  • Land Use Committee Chairperson Linda Jones and Economic Development Committee Chairperson Richard Ropiak will be stepping down. New leaders of those panels will be appointed in the next couple of months.
  • A new joint committee has been formed with Community Board 6. The Waterfront Task Force will help guide the city as it begins to plan resiliency initiatives along the East River. Members appointed by Li include: Bill LoSasso, Linda Jones, Teresa Pedroza, Damaris Reyes (executive director of GOLES), Melissa Aase (executive director of University Settlement), Gary Altman (East River Co-op) and Nancy Ortiz (Vladeck Houses).

In the spring, CB3 member Ayo Harrington filed a complaint with the Manhattan Borough President about the lack of representation by Black and Latino members in leadership roles on Community Board 3. While Borough President Gale Brewer conducted an investigation, the results were never publicly disclosed.  Harrington addressed board members before Li’s announcements last night, saying she was happy about the personnel moves in the name of diversity.  Later in the evening, board member Enrique Cruz also praised Li, saying her decisions showed strong leadership. Before joining the board last year, Cruz called on the Borough President to appoint more Latino members to CB3.

During her re-election campaign, Li pledged to make greater diversity on CB3 a high priority. The moves announced last night place two African American board members – Burriss and Jones – in charge of committees. Last week, the board’s executive committee selected Alysha Coleman, another African American member, to serve as second vice chairperson.