Civil servant moves to civic service

Newly minted Community Board 1 member Reggie Thomas
Newly minted Community Board 1 member Reggie Thomas

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Community Board 1 has gained a member who’s an expert on a topic very pertinent to Lower Manhattan: land use.

Reggie Thomas, 29, recently joined the board after about eight years in city government, with a background in land use, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, and negotiating economic development deals.

Thomas started out as a special assistant for Comptroller Scott Stringer back when he was Manhattan borough president, then become legislative director for then-Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who was land-use chairman at that time.

Thomas then moved to the Bloomberg administration as deputy director of legislative affairs. Most recently, he served as first deputy director of legislative affairs in the de Blasio administration.

He decided to leave city government after what he said were a “crazy busy” five years.

“It was just one of things where I was about to hit 30 and I had not had private sector experience in quite some time. I think the last time I had private sector experience, I was working at the Starbucks on Park Row when I was at Pace,” he said.

Thomas is currently an advisor for the government and regulatory policy practice at Manatt, Phelps & Philips.

Originally from northern New Jersey, Thomas moved Downtown in 2003 to attend Pace University, where he studied political science and economics and said he spent most weekends at the law library.

He said he went to his first CB 1 meeting in 2005 and has been hankering to participate in such ground-level governance ever since.

“There was a lot of interesting things going on,” he said. “I was the student body president at Pace at the time, so they let me go to my first community board meeting and I feel that I’ve always wanted to join since.”

Unfortunately, that same impulse for public service led him into a career that precluded joining the community board.

“The dilemma was all of my prior jobs in city government almost had me conflicted out,” he said.

Thomas applied to the board earlier this year, and said that on his first day at Manatt he got the call about his appointment. Longtime member Noel Jefferson left the board at the end of September.

With the exception of two years, Thomas has lived in Lower Manhattan since 2003, and currently resides in the Seaport.

“I’m awfully interested in sort of how the Seaport is going to develop,” he said. “It’s interesting the amount of investments that Howard Hughes is making, but obviously I’m concerned about these investments being done in a responsible way.”

The number of people making their home Downtown has transformed it, and Thomas said he is interested in working on quality of life issues.

After almost a decade working for the city, he’s excited at the prospect of working for his neighborhood.

“My focus over the past five years, especially working over two administrations, has been citywide,” he said. “And now I’m just really excited about the opportunity actually to contribute a little bit more in a more focused way toward my own community.”