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Julie Menin Makes Way for New CB1 Chairwoman

Catherine McVay Hughes was elected chairwoman of Community Board 1 June 26, 2012.
Catherine McVay Hughes was elected chairwoman of Community Board 1 June 26, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — A new chairwoman took the helm of Community Board 1 Tuesday night, after Julie Menin, the board's longtime leader, stepped down because of term limits.

The new chairwoman is Catherine McVay Hughes, who has lived a block from the World Trade Center for the past 24 years and has been a leading Downtown advocate for 9/11 health and construction safety.

Menin chaired CB1 for seven years, taking prominent positions on First Amendment issues including the Park51 Islamic community center and the Occupy Wall Street protests. She is now preparing to run for Manhattan borough president in 2013.

"It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as chairperson of Community Board 1 for the past seven years," Menin said in an email to supporters Tuesday. "It is remarkable to see how our community has rebuilt in what can best be described as the most arduous of times."

Hughes, CB1's new chairwoman, is a familiar face to many in Lower Manhattan and ran unopposed in Tuesday night's election.

She has served as vice chairwoman of CB1 for the past six years, fighting for everything from a citywide emergency notification system to the inclusion of cancer in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. She also chaired Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's task force on construction safety and serves on the federal government's World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.

Hughes said she decided to run for CB1 chairwoman because she wants to continue helping Lower Manhattan bounce back from 9/11.

"I love Downtown," Hughes said. "I just want to see closure on some of these projects [including the World Trade Center]…and really show how resilient Downtown is."

Hughes, 52, has a degree in engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. She two sons, 16 and 20 years old, whom she raised in Lower Manhattan.

Hughes plans to make several immediate changes to Community Board 1, including limiting most committee meetings to one hour. Committee meetings now often stretch at least an hour or two, and some regularly last more than three hours.

"We want to try to run meetings as efficiently as possible," Hughes said. "We're going to try to make sure there's community input and that the committees can try to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time, ideally less than an hour."

Hughes also plans to dissolve the World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee, which she has chaired for the past seven years.

Construction on the World Trade Center site has progressed dramatically, and Hughes said it is time to focus on weaving the site back into the fabric of Lower Manhattan, rather than treating it as a separate fenced-off zone.

"It's time to reincorporate the World Trade Center into the surrounding area, to claim it back," Hughes said.

A new Urban Planning Committee will handle the remaining World Trade Center issues, including construction delays at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, along with other long-term planning issues in the community, Hughes said. The committee will be chaired by Jeff Galloway and co-chaired by Michael Connolly, Hughes added.

Hughes is also changing the leadership of the Battery Park City Committee, because Linda Belfer, who currently chairs the committee, has been ill for several months. Anthony Notaro will serve as the acting chairman of the committee and George Calderaro will serve as the acting co-chairman, Hughes said.

Also Tuesday night, Community Board 1 elected Notaro as vice chairman, Adam Malitz as secretary and John Fratta as treasurer.

Hughes said she hopes to get more Downtown residents and workers involved in the community board during her two-year term.

"Community participation can actually bring about real positive change," Hughes said. "Things don't just happen."