CB 7 honors teenage tech wiz consultants

Brandon Rutishauser and Merlin Valdez, both 16 (l-r), spent the 2008-2009 school year as technology consultants to Community Board 7. Photo by Daniel Beekman

On Tuesday, June 16, Community Board 7 honored Brandon Rutishauser and Merlin Valdez, both 16, who spent the 2008-2009 school year as tech consultants to CB7. Rutishauser and Valdez latched onto CB7 via CITI Youth, a Municipal Art Society of New York initiative.

CITI Youth introduces high school students to Geographic Information Systems technology; Rutishauser and Valdez were trained to generate maps for the community board – land use maps, for example. The pair also operated a laptop and multimedia projector at CB7 meetings.

“It was great,” Valdez said. “I was nervous [to assist CB7]. Most of community board members are older people. But we were able to contribute.”

Valdez lives on Mosholu Parkway and attends Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. Prior to CITI Youth, he spent time with Aspira of New York, a Latino youth group, and learned to shoot and edit video. Valdez worked on a handful of big-time CB7 projects, including the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory and a rezone of Webster Avenue.

“We were able to help program the Kingsbridge Armory,” he said. “We were able to tell [CB7] what the youth is thinking.”

Rutishauser and Valdez received a $10 per hour stipend from CITI Youth; more than 30 students were attached to NYC community boards via CITI Youth in 2008-2009.

“I thought [the position] would be hard but I enjoyed it,” Rutishauser said. “I got paid to learn about my community.”

Rutishauser had fun snapping photos of houses in Bedford Park ahead of the Webster Avenue rezone. He attends All Hallows High School. The Creston Avenue resident is a DJ and football player. He used to perform martial arts.

“It’s great to see young people in a positive light,” said CB7 district manager Fernando Tirado. “Merlin and Brandon already understand city planning and urban design. They showed dedication to their community.”

Valdez hopes Kingsbridge Armory developer Related Companies will reserve space in the mammoth building for music and computer technology. Teens in the northwest Bronx are talented and innovative, Valdez said. They need a spot to experiment. Rutishauser is worried about crime in Bedford Park. At night, he hears loud music and sees drug deals. The shooting death of Juan Jerez, 15, at Minerva Place and Creston Avenue, didn’t surprise Rutishauser. Thugs hang on the corner.

“It was bound to happen,” Rutishauser said.

Rutishauser and Valdez won’t join CB7 soon; they need to complete high school. When the time comes, they’ll be ready.

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