June Eisland. Rosemary Ginty. And, depending on how the vote goes next month, Laura Spalter.
In the past several decades Community Board 8 has existed in some form or another, these are the only women who have led this important, hyperlocal neighborhood advisory board. And before Ginty was elevated to the top spot in 2017, Eisland — who later became a city councilwoman — was in a club all by herself.
It seems the board is making up for lost time, but there’s still a ways to go. Representation is important, not just in membership of a group, but in who leads it as well. While many of us try to immerse ourselves in various issues — especially those that might affect people outside of our own specific social circles — we can’t connect to all of them, which is exactly where we can significantly benefit from diversity.
Yet, providing appropriate representation for women isn’t the only diversity issue facing the community board. There are two other disparities that seem to grow every year — that of ethnicity, and of geography.
Less than half the people living within the 10471 and 10463 ZIP codes are white, according to census figures. And three times the people live in 10463 — known disparagingly as “down the hill” — than who live “up the hill.”
Yet, outside of Tony Cassino in the aughts, every CB8 chair — male or female — has been white. Even more, with the exception of Ginty’s predecessor Dan Padernacht, all chairs have been from “up the hill.”
Until recent years, when the board was readying its nominating committee, a statement was read into the record as an important reminder to all those who serve on the nominating committee. That statement asked nominating committee members to find candidates “who represent diverse geographic areas,” from “diverse communities,” hailing from “diverse ethnic and racial groups.”
That statement wasn’t read this year, as far as we can tell. And it seemed few if any of the nominating committee members took those words to heart anyway.
In fact, the only two interviewees that seemed to even be challenged by the nominating committee were housing committee chair Daris Jackson and board chair candidate Sergio Villaverde.
They are among the four of the board’s 13 committees led by people of color, and among nearly the six chairs who hail from Kingsbridge or Marble Hill.
In his interview seeking to helm the land use committee for another year, longtime member Charles Moerdler pushed the board to focus more attention in Kingsbridge and Marble Hill.
We agree wholeheartedly — not just in actions the board might take, but also inside the actual board itself.
It shouldn’t take decades for everyone to be represented, and our community board should lead the way.