Ischia Bravo, the former executive director of the Bronx Democratic County Committee (BDCC), was hired as the new district manager for Community Board 7, becoming the fifth district manager for the board in the last five years.
Her hiring was met with some questions over whether she was truly fit for the job. Bravo, who’s hiring was approved by the board 16 to 3 with
nine abstentions, succeeds the late Andrew Sandler, who resigned from the job three weeks before passing away from cancer in August.
“Helping my neighbors on behalf of the community board is deeply personal for me,” Bravo, reading off prepared remarks, told members at the Dec. 19 general board meeting at Kittay House in Kingsbridge Heights.
For Bravo, who also served as a board member on and off since at least 2010, the position once again elevates her profile though on a more hyperlocal level. She served as executive director of BDCC, an administrative position that exposed her to the borough’s elected officials and beyond. It’s unclear why Bravo left the position. In 2015, Bravo tested her political clout by running against longtime Assemblyman Jose Rivera. She
Her approval raised questions on whether her qualifications truly fit the requirements of the job. District managers serve as go betweens for residents and New York City agencies. Much of the red flags were centered over her connections with the borough’s Democratic lawmakers, where its City Council members and borough president pick members on the board. District manager positions are usually apolitical positions.
“None of this was politically motivated. This was something I saw as an opportunity to continue to serve,” Bravo told the Norwood News. “I’m going to give it a shot because this is where I was born.” Bravo’s history with the board stretches when she was a child when the district manager at the time, the late Rita Kessler, served.
Bravo applied for the position, having been interviewed twice by the board’s Search Committee. Aside from the BDCC, Bravo held jobs with Congressman Jose Serrano and his son, Manhattan/Bronx state Sen. Jose Serrano Jr. On Dec. 14, Bravo was soon presented to the Executive Committee , where she was approved over another finalist, Lydia Hernandez, a community associate for Community Board 8. The closed-door discussion was “heated and contentious” with some “sexist remarks and threats” made, according to the public minutes. Members ultimately
voted 6 to 3 in favor of Bravo over Hernandez.
Striking the balance in keeping an open process while protecting the identities of applicants stands as a challenge for the board. Much of the anonymity stems from ensuring an applicant’s current employer is not made aware that the applicant is looking for another job.
Well before the board had decided on their candidates, new members criticized the handling of the vetting process, citing a lack of transparency. The Search Committee met privately to review résumés and conduct interviews without general board members present. Other applicants
included CB7 members Adaline Walker-Santiago, Robyn Saunders, and Lorita Watson. At the November general board meeting, new members worried the process was not clear enough.
“It needs work,” said one CB7 member of the hiring practice. The member asked for anonymity because they were not allowed to speak on the matter.
“The system was rigged,” wrote another member on Facebook. The person identified himself or herself as a member of the Bronx Citizens Speak Out Now. Andrew Laiosa, chair of the board’s Search Committee, said the board made every attempt at walking a tightrope. “You have to have some kind of balance between transparency and privacy,” said Laiosa. “What I find very disappointing is that it appears to me that the majority of
people are so poisoned by their emotions that they cannot intellectually consider that this is indeed a concern.”
Community Board 7 covers the neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham, Kingsbridge Heights and University Heights. Bravo lives within CB7’s borders, which is not a requirement for a district manger, but a benefit.
It’s unclear when Bravo will start her job. She will be on a six-month probation and be paid a salary of $72,000.
Editor’s Note: The print version of this article erroneously mentions when Bravo spoke to Community Board 7. It was after the vote.