A longtime political activist has claimed the reins of Community Board 10.
At the board’s December meeting, members voted to elect Joanne Seminara, a Democratic district leader in the 60th Assembly District, as the board’s newest chairperson, replacing Dean Rasinya, who is completing his third term at the board’s helm, and cannot run again because of term limits.
Seminara -- who has been a board member since 1993 -- received 27 votes out of 44 cast, with her opponent, Ron Gross, receiving 17. Seminara’s term will begin on January 1, 2010, and last through the year.
Seminara urged her candidacy based on her years of community service, which began when she and husband Pierre Lehu founded the 79th Street Block Association in their living room, some 25 years ago, and included, among other things, stints with the Bay Ridge Forum and the PTAs of the schools her children attended, membership on the board of the Guild for Exceptional Children, and the co-presidency of the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Associations.
“It’s really been a labor of love,” Seminara attested, in a speech made prior to the votes being cast. Her ongoing volunteer efforts she characterized as “hard work, lots of fun. Like all of you, I believe in public service. It is an integral part of who I am.
“I am a very busy person,” she went on, “but I make the time to do the community work because I love to do it. Politics aside, I have been doing this for 25 years, and I will continue to do it responsibly, cooperatively and with the respect and attention it deserves. We’re all political appointees. We all have political affiliations, or most of us do, but together we demonstrate that advocating for people is far above politics. If I’m chair, it will stay that way.”
Some of Seminara’s remarks about political affiliation were a clear response to Gross’s remarks as he positioned himself prior to the vote.
Gross, at that time, stressed that he was not connected politically. “I’m Switzerland,” he had told board members gathered in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road. “I’m not beholding to any political party, which allows me to put the community ahead of politics.”
Overall, Gross had said, he has a “history of community activism and leadership,” including his work on behalf of creating the Senator Street Historic District, and making sure that the extension tothe High School of Telecommunications fit in with existing buildings on the block.
“I intend to be proactive rather than reactive,” Gross also told board members.
As promised, the election was a “friendly” one. After the results were announced, Gross gave Seminara a hug and a kiss as he congratulated her.
“I’m delighted,” Seminara told this paper. “I really look forward to working with everyone on the board and using all the talents of this active, talented board. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re up to it.”
The election was a demonstration of how strongly both Seminara and Gross feel about the community, opined Rasinya. “Not everyone is willing to put themselves out there and be in a contested election. They both care that much,” he stressed.
Besides board chair, three other posts were also up for grabs. Running unopposed, Brian Kieran was elected to the position of vice chairperson, Eleanor Schiano was electedas secretary and Mary Ann Walsh was elected the board’s treasurer when Gross, as the board’s current secretary, cast a single vote for each of them prior to the election of the board’s chair.