Community Board 8 has a new district manager with a familiar face.
Michael Heller, 61, assumed control of the board Monday, May 15 after the board voted to instate him at its April meeting.
A former CB 8 board member and lifelong Riverdale resident, Heller is no stranger to the inner workings of the northwest Bronx.
Early in his career he served as a community liaison for the NYC Transit Authority in several boroughs, and later held community affairs management positions at Jacobi Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and later Montefiore when they acquired the college.
His most recent employment was as a community liaison for prominent transportation engineering firm Sam Schwartz.
“Over the years, I’ve worked very closely with district managers and community boards in areas all over the city,” he said. “The way our city government is set up, the community boards are a critical link between the needs of local residents and local organizations and the agencies that provide services.”
CB 8 is unique among Bronx regions in that it includes both ethnically diverse neighborhoods like Kingsbridge and Marble Hill as well as the affluent sections of Riverdale and Fieldston.
The board’s boundaries also include the massive Van Cortlandt Park, as well as two private colleges, Manhattan College and College of Mount St. Vincent.
That diversity, Heller said, presents different challenges for the board in working towards their residents’ best interests.
As up-and-coming Kingsbridge sees new commercial shopping centers and residential development along the Broadway corridor, the board will have to make sure residents aren’t squeezed out, he said.
Up the hill in tony Riverdale, the challenge is keeping longtime small businesses in the area as real estate prices continue to rise.
“We go through periods where there are empty storefronts where rents are too high to periods of stability with new stores and restaurants moving in. The board and elected officials try to make sure local merchants associations are strong, and that the neighborhood remains attractive and affordable so you don’t have empty storefronts,” he said.
Heller praised the board and its chairman, Dan Padernacht, for their proactive activity in tackling issues.
“This board has always been there to engage with residents, community based organizations, elected officials and city and state agencies,” Heller said. “We’re always at the plate swinging.”
Padernacht said the area faces a number of issues in the coming months, including a proposed DOT project to make Broadway safer, a planned facelift for Van Cortlandt Park and a plan by Hebrew Home in Riverdale to rezone and develop an empty waterfront parcel.
However, he said the first tasks for Heller will be getting acclimated to the position and learning to efficiently run the office.
“Michael has a good amount of experience working in government in different positions, and we’re excited for him to take over and really run the office and support our operations,” he said.