On Thursday, Community Board 1 — which covers the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris — elected Clarisa Alayeto as its new chairperson, bringing to a close Arline Parks’ run in leadership.
Alayeto, 41, beat out Parks by just three votes and was installed in her new role immediately.
In an interview with the Bronx Times Friday, she said she wants board members to feel they’re not “just attending meetings” but having a real stake in their community.
“Let’s just talk,” Alayeto said. “Let’s get in a room and talk about what’s happening in the community.”
This was not Alayeto’s first attempt at the seat, however. In 2021, she lost out to Parks by six votes. But with the support of “new, energized members” who nominated her, she felt the time was right to run again.
Alayeto explained Thursday’s election was unique because for the first time, members voted privately on paper instead of casting votes aloud. “Members wanted more of a democratic process,” she said.
A CB1 member since 2017, Alayeto grew up in NYCHA’s Patterson Houses and has worked within the leadership of the DREAM Charter School network for the past 10 years, currently serving as the manager of community and government affairs. She also hosts a running group, Mott Haven Runners of Color, that meets on Mondays at St. Mary’s Park.
Parks and District Manager Anthony Jordan did not respond to requests for comment.
The now former chairperson, Parks has been a longtime member of CB1 and served in its lead role since 2021. Professionally, she is the vice chair and CEO of the Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association, a nonprofit that builds affordable housing in the Bronx.
Community boards are grassroots city government groups that are run by volunteers — including the chairperson — and one salaried district manager. The city has 59 boards, 12 of which are in the Bronx.
Monthly full board meetings are open to the public and are often attended by representatives of local elected officials or officials themselves. And while the boards have only advisory power, their votes of support or opposition for development projects and other initiatives can have significant sway.
Along with two vice chairs and Jordan, the district manager, Alayeto now leads the 50-member board of Bronxites whom she described as ready “to just do the work, get out in the community, and represent the district in a good way.”
Alayeto said one of her first priorities is building camaraderie among her colleagues. She also plans to boost training on complicated issues such as land use and zoning, since the neighborhoods of CB1 are undergoing a development boom. The business and real estate publication Crain’s called Mott Haven one of the city’s “‘It’ districts”, along with Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Upgrading the board’s technology is also critical in promoting transparency and interaction with residents. Alayeto said she plans to look into livestreaming meetings, updating the board’s website and maintaining active social media accounts — she said that CB1 has historically lagged behind other boards in the Bronx.
In Alayeto’s new role, she said she plans to use technology and outreach to increase openness between the board and community.
“There’s too much going on for us to be operating in secrecy,” she said.
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