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19-Year-Old CUNY Freshman Among New Members of West Side Community Board

By Mathew Katz | April 10, 2014 6:45am
 Austin Ochoa, 19, will be one of the youngest members ever to serve on Community Board 4. 
Austin Ochoa, 19, will be one of the youngest members ever to serve on Community Board 4. 
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CHELSEA — Community Board 4 is getting some new members — including one of the youngest in the board's history.

Among the eight new members just appointed to the board by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's office is 19-year-old CUNY freshman Austin Ochoa, who will be the board's youngest member. 

Ochoa, who is also a part-time intern for City Councilman Dan Garodnick, said the community board appointment was part of a lifelong commitment to public service.

"When I was really young, I had a niche of helping people," he said. "Helping people and helping the community is my motivation."

Ochoa said his interests include quality-of-life issues and promoting more green space. Despite not being legally able to drink, he hopes to sit on the board's Business Licenses and Permits Committee, which deals with liquor licenses in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen.

 Angel Cortes, left, joined Community Board 4 in 2014. 
Angel Cortes, left, joined Community Board 4 in 2014. 
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

"It's a quality-of-life issue, especially if you have a neighbor with a bar under his apartment building. It directly affects their life," he said.

Along with Ochoa, other new members are bringing fresh energy to the board. Angel Cortes, 24, joined the board after being laid off last year from the Desmond Tutu Center, now the Highline Hotel. Cortes and his fellow former staffers pushed CB4 to deny the hotel's liquor license after they were laid off during Hurricane Sandy

Longtime community member and former P.S. 11 PTA president Lowell Kern, 50, has also joined the board. The Chelsea resident volunteered for City Councilman Corey Johnson's 2013 campaign and decided to volunteer for the board position at Johnson's urging.

"I raised two kids in the district, so I'm interested in issues that affect our kids — education, parks, that sort of thing," said Kern, an attorney who's lived in West Chelsea since 1985. "I'm also concerned about possible overdevelopment in the area. Since the High Line opened up, all of a sudden everyone wants to build up along the High Line."

Overdevelopment is likely to be a concern among several new members. David Holowka, another new board member and an architect, fought heavily against Jamestown's expansion to Chelsea Market in 2012 and 2013.

Also new to the board are Maria Ortiz, Ken Stuart, Jonathan Bokser and Matthew Goodwin. Community board members are unpaid and play an advisory role on applications for liquor licenses, street fairs and zoning changes.

The new members will attend their first full board meeting on May 7 and from there will be able to serve on two of the board's committees.