CB 11 diversifies

CB 11 diversifies
Community Board 11 staff Chris Kirka and Bharati Kemraj with district manager Jeremy Warneke.
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez

As district demographics continue to change in Community Board 11, so has its staff.

For the first time in the history of CB 11—covering Morris Park, Allerton, Van Nest, Pelham Parkway and Pelham Gardens—two immigrants have joined its staff.

Albanian born Chris Kirka and Guyana native Bharati Kemraj joined the board last year as community associates.

Kirka, 42, was born in Albania in 1970, and came to the U.S. in 1991.

After graduating from Lehman College in the Bronx as a political science major, he worked for Borough Presidents Fernando Ferrer and Adolfo Carrion for nine years before moving onto the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to Albanian, Kirka also speaks Spanish and Italian—a major asset in the diverse area the board covers.

“The demographics that CB 11 covers has changed over the last 20 to 30 years,” Kirka said. “There has been a big influx of Albanians that have come and basically concentrated in this area. I think the diversifying of the board staff enables us to help more of the community.”

Kemraj, 30, came to the U.S. from Guyana when she was seven.

As a daughter of a Hindu priest, Kemraj said she feels she brings a unique perspective as a staff member of CB 11.

“Our board is very diverse, so having a diverse staff really represents our district,” said Kemraj, who speaks Creole and a little bit of Hindi. “I think the fact that each of us is from a different background makes the community looks up to us and the fact we all speak different languages helps the community too.”

The board’s district manager, Jeremy Warneke, said although Kirka and Kemraj were not hired because they are immigrants, it is definitely a true reflection of the district and how it has changed, as all staff that previously worked for the board were of Italian and Jewish decent.

“I think it’s great, it’s what we need here,” Warneke said. “And although we did not hire them for this reason, it is certainly beneficial.”

The new hires come at an interesting time, as there has been a major influx of Albanians in the Morris Park area as well as an Albanian assemblyman elected, Warneke also noted.

“In many ways this is unique,” Warneke said. “The district hasn’t always been as large as it is, it never used to include many areas it now does. The district was much smaller prior to 1975. According to the 1970 census, 96.6 percent of the district was white, I am sure you can imagine those numbers are much different today.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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