A local community board headed for decades by white men is now helmed by a black Caribbean-American, who assumed his role as the panel’s chairman this month after its members elected him to the unpaid position in December.
Gardy Brazela took the helm of Community Board 18 after two decades as a member of the panel — whose district includes the neighborhoods of Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Mill Island — and said he plans to hit the ground running.
“I was honored that they chose me. It’s a lot of responsibility, and the community expects change from me, and now I have to deliver,” Brazela said.
Brazela, who led CB18’s Safety Commission for roughly two years during his tenure on the panel, succeeds his predecessor of two decades, Saul Needle, who stepped down and into the position of CB18’s vice chairman. But the new chairman won’t be able to serve for nearly as long as his immediate predecessor, because voters last November elected to set term limits for all residents on the city’s community boards, most of which can now only serve four consecutive two-year stints.
Other past CB18 chairmen include Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio, and convicted felon and disgraced former state Sen. Carl Kruger.
The Haitian-born Brazela came with his family to Kings County as a 12-year-old, first settling in East Flatbush before moving to Canarsie, where he now lives.
The 53-year-old — who by day works as a vocational counselor at a Manhattan rehab center — began his civic career back in 1993, when he founded the Canarsie-based neighborhood group Friends United Block Association, which he still oversees.
And in addition to his role atop CB18, Brazela also currently serves as the president of the local 69th Precinct’s Community Council, and as a member of the Canarsie Lions community organization.
Needle placed his full confidence in his successor, noting his years of experience on the board.
“He’s competent, and sometimes it’s time to hand the mantle over to somebody else,” the former CB18 chairman said.
And the board’s longtime district manager said she looks forward to having fresh blood at its helm, even though she’ll miss working side by side with Needle.
“It’s mixed emotions because Saul and I were a good team,” said Dottie Turano. “But to be quite honest, I’m thrilled. Gardy is full of enthusiasm. He’s full of energy and ideas and I look forward to working with him.”
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