Jamie Rogers is elected chairperson of C.B. 3 amid cries for L.E.S. / C’town rezoning support

Jamie Rogers, right, succeeds Gigi Li, left, as chairperson of the East Side community board. Photos by Lesley Sussman

BY LESLEY SUSSMAN | At a meeting marred by disruptions by Lower East Side and Chinatown activists opposed to the displacement of low-income residents and small businesses by hotels and luxury development, Community Board 3 last week managed to elect a new chairperson, naming Jamie Rogers to the top post.

Rogers, 33, is C.B. 3’s current assistant secretary and has served on the board four years. He succeeds Gigi Li, who served four consecutive one-year terms as board chairperson, and is now running for state Assembly in the 65th District, for the seat vacated by disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Silver was convicted last year on federal corruption charges, and Alice Cancel has filled the seat since winning a special election in April.

Before the June 28 vote, Rogers and the other chairperson candidate, Enrique Cruz, gave brief statements and answered questions from board members. Members then cast their votes, and Rogers easily defeated Cruz in a 34-to-11 vote.

Cruz founded ALBOR, the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents, in 2013 when he and partners were facing opposition to their plan to open a restaurant on Rivington St.

The board also elected other executive officers at the packed meeting, held at P.S. 20, at 166 Stanton St.

Alysha Lewis-Coleman won as first vice chairperson, defeating Chinatown activist Karlin Chan. Herman Hewitt, current first vice chairperson, was elected second vice chairperson. Meghan Joye, current C.B. 3 secretary, was re-elected. Christian De Leon was elected assistant secretary, and David Crane, C.B. 3’s current treasurer, was also re-elected.

Rogers owns Pushcart Coffee, a small chain of coffee shops with locations in Chelsea, Gramercy and Williamsburg.

Speaking after the election, he told The Villager, “I will lead by example with a clear vision of how the community should be. But I will also be flexible rather than have a static vision.”

During the meeting, Rogers was asked how he would advocate for low-income residents and the elderly who live in the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

“One of my most important missions will be to keep people from losing their housing and small businesses to high-rise developers — especially people who live in public housing and senior citizens,” he responded.

Members of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side made their demands known with signs and vocal outbursts.
Members of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side made their demands known with signs and vocal outbursts.

In addition to his voluntary C.B. 3 post and running his business, Rogers is campaign treasurer for City Council candidate Carlina Rivera, who is a former C.B. 3 board member and his wife. The two married last year.

Rogers, a Grand St. resident, is also president of Coalition for a District Alternative, or CoDA, the East Village’s leading Democratic political organization. Formerly a corporate lawyer, Rogers was appointed to Community Board 3 in 2012.

Rivera, a Democratic district leader who now serves as a legislative director for Councilmember Rosie Mendez, told The Villager that her husband will do “a great job.”

“I have tremendous confidence in his ability to be fair and responsible,” she said. “I know how much he cares about the community.”

CoDA has already endorsed Rivera to succeed Mendez in the City Council when Mendez is forced out by term limits after next year.

At a contentious public session at the meeting’s start, activists with the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side staged a vocal protest against the handling by C.B. 3 of a community-based Chinatown rezoning initiative.

The coalition is demanding that C.B. 3 push harder to implement the Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning plan, which C.B. 3 members helped in drafting over the past eight years. The plan would create a new special zoning district in Chinatown and the Lower East Side with increased height restrictions and protections to fend off sky-high luxury towers and fancy hotels.

Board leaders were denounced as “sellouts” for failing — in the protesters’ view — to forcefully advocate for all aspects of the rezoning proposal. At one point, police had to forcibly eject a protester from the meeting.

A protester disrupted the meeting while carrying a sign reading, “Sell Out,” with a photo of Mayor de Blasio and a developer on it. During one tense moment, he held the sign over Gigi Li’s head.
A protester disrupted the meeting while carrying a sign reading, “Sell Out,” with a photo of Mayor de Blasio and a developer on it. During one tense moment, he held the sign over Gigi Li’s head.

In an earlier interruption, David Michael, an advocate for National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, or NMASS, charged up and down the aisles hurling abuse at C.B. 3 members and holding up a sign over Li’s head that read, “Sell Out.”

Other demonstrators paraded up and down the aisle of the auditorium shouting, “They’re not listening to us and turning over the neighborhood to developers who are treating us like cockroaches!”

A large contingent of Chinatown residents held up posters denouncing the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio for not halting the increasing displacement of the neighborhood’s small merchants and residents.

Speaker after speaker stood up and pointed accusing fingers at Li and other board members.

“You’re doing a lousy job for this community,” coalition member Louisa Velez flung at Li.

Velez accused Li of secretly altering the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan to benefit high-rise developers.

“Did she get bought off, or did she volunteer to do a dirty job for the city and displace people of color and working poor in our neighborhood?” Velez fumed.

But Li later responded that she and the community board have been involved in the process and will keep advocating for it.

“We have been part of the Chinatown Working Group for the past eight years and we will continue to work with them for the priorities laid out in that plan,” she said.

Li could not run for re-election since the board last year adopted a four-year term limit for chairperson. She was honored at the meeting by local politicians’ representatives for her service to the community. They presented her with a variety of certificates of appreciation. The outgoing chairperson was also lauded by veteran board member Hewitt for “all her hard work and having the interest of the community at heart.”

In her remarks to the board on her tenure at its helm, Li said C.B. 3, over all, did a very commendable job and that it is now in a very good place.

“I’m proud of the board and all it’s done for the community over the past four years,” she said. “This is the most diverse leadership the board has ever had.

We may not have agreed on everything, but we still worked together to accomplish so much.”

Li told the board that although she is now pursuing a political career, she will, nonetheless, continue to support the board in all its future efforts.