Members of Community Board 3 chose a new leader last night. He’s Jamie Rogers, who owns Pushcart Coffee, a small business with locations in Chelsea and Murray Hill. Rogers succeeds Gigi Li as board chairperson. She wasn’t able to run for a fifth one-year term due to CB3’s term limits.
Rogers defeated Enrique Cruz 34-11 after both candidates delivered brief statements and answered questions submitted by members of the all-volunteer board. Alysha Lewis-Coleman was elected first vice chair, defeating Chinatown activist Karlin Chan 42-5. Herman Hewitt was elected second vice chair, while Meghan Joye (secretary), Christian De Leon (assistant secretary) and David Crane (treasurer) also won positions as executive officers.
The election followed an especially contentious public session of the community board. A group known as the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side led a protest against the board’s handling of a community-based Chinatown rezoning initiative. Board leaders were denounced as “sell outs” for failing to — in the eyes of the protesters — forcefully advocate for all aspects of the plan.
In internal conversations leading up to last night’s vote, some board members were critical of CB3’s office, particularly District Manager Susan Stetzer, who they believe has too much influence over meeting agendas and other administrative functions. This issue was not addressed specifically by the candidates but was alluded to in their statements.
Following the vote, Rogers told The Lo-Down he wants to make sure CB3 is, “addressing concerns the board has with how we manage our staff, that we’re addressing concerns with transparency of our leadership, that we’re addressing concerns with appointments to various leadership positions.” CB3, he added, must be a “supportive board to its members” and must work harder to fully represent all aspects of the diverse Lower East Side community. “Tonight,” he said, “was a real indication of the pain and anger and frustration people are feeling that’s directed at the board, but it’s a much larger problem that we as a board need to address.”
Rogers will have a full plate in the months ahead. In addition to running his business, he’s campaign treasurer for City Council candidate Carlina Rivera (who is Rogers’ wife). He’s also president of CoDA, a local Democratic club. Rogers. formerly a corporate lawyer, was appointed to Community Board 3 in 2012. He lives in the Grand Street cooperatives.
Enrique Cruz founded an organization called ALBOR, the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents. He’s a lifelong Lower East Side resident and real estate developer. In recent years, he’s advocated for small businesses on Clinton Street, for greater diversity in community board appointments and for a more assertive stance against predatory landlords. He first became engaged with community board politics during a 2013 controversy over a Rivington Street restaurant he and other local businessmen were seeking to open. In the past, Cruz has been an outspoken critic of the board’s staff.
During last night’s board meeting, Cruz said CB3 leadership needs to more proactively reach out to members, making sure that everyone plays a role in shaping board policies. “We can be more inclusive, we can be more cohesive,” he said. Referring to the protests earlier in the evening, he added, “I think our community board is a good one. Some of the things that were said, while I understand the frustrations of some of the residents who were here today, I do know the hard work that all 50 members, who do this as a volunteer position, they do it with their hearts and they come here to try to make a difference.”