BY COLIN MIXSON
Former Community Board 1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes has failed to attend any full board meetings since stepping down as the group’s leader earlier this year, placing the long-time civic leader in violation of the bylaws — and her fellow board members in an awkward position.
Following the removal of another board member for poor attendance in October, the board’s new leadership faces potentially having to take steps to remove Hughes, who for four years dedicated herself to public service as leader of one of the city’s most influential community boards.
“It is a ticklish situation,” said Paul Hovitz, who serves as vice chairman of CB1. “For years, Catherine devoted herself to nothing else but CB1, and it’s really odd for us as leaders of the board to be put in this situation to have to ask the borough president to remove her.”
The CB1’s bylaws state that any member may be removed who misses three consecutive full board meetings, or more than four meetings in a single year.
Those rules were cited in October when the board voted to give the boot to former member Elizabeth Avila — who failed to attend 13 out of 15 full board meetings over the last two years.
But Avila’s removal from the board raised the specter of Hughes’s conspicuous absence from the four board meetings since Anthony Notaro replaced her as chair in June, and the new board leader has been trying to cajole his predecessor into giving him an answer as to whether she plans on continuing as a member of the board or if she’d rather bid farewell to her former fief, he said.
“She’s been very closeted about what she’s doing now and what her future is going to be,” Notaro said. “She has such a wealth of knowledge, and energy, it would be a shame for her to not participate. But I understand if that’s what she wants to do.”
Hughes told Downtown Express that her absence from board meetings is largely the result of a much-needed vacation following years of dedicating herself to the community, which included a six-year stint as CB1’s vice chair before ascending to the top job, which she held for four years.
She said that during her time off, she has focused on other issues a little closer to home.
“After the years spent volunteering on rebuilding our community after 9/11, the 2008 collapse, and Superstorm Sandy, I took a little time to focus on family priorities,” said Hughes.
Despite missing several meetings, Hughes said she has continued to dedicate herself to causes that she feels strongly about — Downtown storm resiliency in particular — and she’s continued to participate with CB1’s Resiliency Task Force, in addition to exploring solutions for keeping Lower Manhattan dry in the event of another Superstorm Sandy.
Her absence from board meetings stands in stark contrast to her hands-on style of governing the board in her four years as its chairwoman, during which time she was known for attending an unprecedented number of community events, according to Hovitz.
“I don’t know if she ever saw her family,” Hovitz said. “She was everywhere, at every meeting, at every photo op, at so many events, and just dedicated herself, and that was admirable.”
Whatever Hughes plans on doing, board members are sure to support it, just so long as she comes out with it soon, Hovitz said.
“I don’t understand why she wouldn’t simply bow out gracefully if she didn’t want to be involved anymore, and why she’d put us in the position where people were saying, ‘what’s going on?’” he said. “If this was anyone else, they’d be removed.”