With a fair amount of pomp, and some serious warnings about the future of community boards, as an institution, Community Board 10’s officers were sworn in, during the board’s January meeting.
Long-time board member Joanne Seminara was sworn in as chairperson by the Honorable Arthur Schack, himself a former chair of CB 10, before a crowd gathered in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road.
Also sworn in by Schack were Vice Chairperson Brian Kieran, Secretary Eleanor Schiano and Treasurer Mary Ann Walsh, as a lineup of the board’s former chairs — Joseph Bova, David Vaughan, Basil Capetanakis, Kirk Tzanides, Stephen Harrison and Dean Rasinya watched. In a final ceremony, the assembled chairs passed the gavel along– from Bova, the earliest chair present, to Seminara, the board’s first female chairperson.
The induction of officers occurred against a backdrop of impending review of the City Charter, with many interested parties positing that curtailment or outright elimination of the city’s 59 community boards –established in the 1970s to provide government services at the local level — could be a recommendation of the commission appointed to do the charter review.
With budget cuts of 22 percent to boards this year, there may be more blows to come, suggested Seminara, who said she expects board members “to be forced to defend the volunteer work we do, acting as the eyes and ears of the community on behalf of our neighbors.
“We do not always know who reaps the value of our work, but we continue to put it out there,” she noted.
CB 10, in common with other boards around the city, works on “a host of issues that affect life in the community… at the street level,” Seminara stressed, with their efforts adding up to “hours and hours of leadership and advocacy beginning sometime in the early 1970s.”
In recent years, Seminara noted, the board has been a leader in rezoning the community, to maintain the quality-of-life. “There are people in the city who would seek to eliminate our voice in zoning so development can proceed unimpeded,” she told the group.
Seminara has “breached the glass ceiling, just as the going gets rough and she is going to have to fight to maintain community boards and everything that community boards stand for,” noted former Assemblymember Adele Cohen, who attended the swearing in.
“Board 10, you have made a spectacular choice,” she added. “Joanne Seminara will lead you well.”
Each of the city’s community boards has 50 members who serve as volunteers for two-year terms, 25 appointed directly by the borough president and 25 by the councilmember or members whose district overlaps the board’s catchment area.
In addition, each board has a local office, with a small staff, who respond to service delivery requests and other local concerns.