Meet Community Board 7’s Youngest Member; ‘Paying Attention to What’s Going On’

By Carol Tannenhauser

Pete Buttigieg has nothing on Julian Giordano, the newly appointed, 16-year-old member of Community Board 7.

Giordano is one of four newly appointed youths serving on community boards across the city. He sat down with WSR last week, after a full day of classes at Stuyvesant High School, before what would undoubtedly be a long night of homework. He stays up “later than my parents would like me to,” he admitted, and “sometimes I’m incredibly tired, but not in a bad way, because I know I’m doing things I’m really proud of and really love.”

How did you become a member of Community Board 7?

It was in middle school that my interest in politics and government started. I went to Booker T. Washington, which is in Manhattan Valley, uptown. It’s a great school, and I had some great teachers who helped me follow the 2016 presidential election.

The way I first learned about community boards was actually working with my dad. You’ve heard about Extell’s building on West 66th Street? We live next door. I helped my dad create a block association and a website. He started going to community board meetings and I went with him.

The meetings are very intricate, very local level. A community board meeting could be dedicated entirely to a few steps, outside a storefront, on one block. Some people are turned away by that, but I found it fascinating. I came to realize that, oftentimes, the biggest impacts on a community come from local politics, more so than national. It’s the small things—the creation of a park, making the subways accessible—that improve people’s daily lives.

A community board is advisory. It makes recommendations to government agencies. For a very long time, the age limit for community boards was 18. Then, a few years ago, legislation was passed to lower the age to 16. The summer after my freshman year, I attended as many community board meetings as I could, to get familiar with the issues. Then, I went through the same process as adults do: interviews and a written application. I was accepted in May.

How have you been received by your fellow board members?

One of the things I was worried about, as a 16-year-old who is not an architect, does not work in business or have any of the other past experiences that a lot of other board members do, I was worried about how I’d be received. And I’ve been blown away by the kindness and support I’ve gotten. Every meeting I go to, people ask to hear what I think about things. They invite me to come to their meetings and make themselves available for any questions.

This month, I attended six committee meetings and the full board meeting. Every day, after school, I’d go to the Community Board offices on 87th Street. I’d get home late and do my homework. Stuyvesant is a very high-homework school. It was hard work, but it was definitely worth it. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

What are your observations of the Upper West Side? Is there anything you’d like to fix?

I think the Upper West Side, first of all, is an amazing neighborhood. I feel really privileged to be able to live here. I love everything about it. I live right across from Lincoln Center. I love the arts and theater. Both my parents were involved in the theater. I love Shakespeare in the Park, which just opened. I don’t think I’d want to live elsewhere. The accessibility of everything is amazing. I live a few blocks away from a library and grocery store, and right across from a train or bus. I can get almost anywhere in Manhattan in 30 minutes. There are so many opportunities out there, it’s crazy. But I also know I’m living in a bubble.

What upsets me the most is the Extell building, which is part of the reason I got involved in politics. That building is going up ‘as of right,’ which means without any community input. By the time we were notified of it, it was basically too late to stop. That infuriates me, because I think that anything that big—even if I completely agree with it—needs the community’s input. It’s going to change the skyline. It’s going to change the environment. It’s going to change everything. I think this is a theme across the city. They don’t take enough of people’s feelings or opinions into account. There’s development without concern for the individuals who live in the community.

I’m also a photographer, which has taught me attention to detail. Carrying a camera around, you see everything through a different lens. It’s the same thing being a community board member. You see the world through a different lens. I notice illegal parking and garbage bags on the street. I notice tons of development. I notice local businesses closing and delays in transportation.

Is there any issue you’d like to focus on?

One of the things I’m most passionate about is youth voice—in government especially. I’ve come to realize how little youth voices are considered in matters that really concern them. I serve on a few student-level organizations in the Department of Education (DOE). There are tons of changes happening right now: how we think about specialized schools, disciplinary action, admissions, equity. One of the big things I want to do is raise the voices of youth in this community.

What about your own future, do you have any dreams or goals?

At this stage, I’m leaving my options open. I’m still discovering what my passions are at school, what I want to study and pursue. I write for my school newspaper and I like journalism. I’m also vice president of the student government. As for future political aspirations, I don’t know. I do know that I’m incredibly interested in local politics and, throughout my life, I’m going to stay committed to being involved in my community and paying attention to what’s going on.

Update:

At our request, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer sent a statement about Giordano’s appointment. Brewer “technically appoints all community board members,” explained Jon Houston, her director of communications. “She has long advocated for teens to serve on community boards and worked to change state law to allow [that to happen] in 2014-15.”

“I’ve always believed that young people have a lot to contribute to governing, and Julian Giordano will be no exception,” Brewer wrote. “Teens are paying attention to their neighborhoods, and often have fresh solutions to ongoing problems. And the sooner we can involve young people in the process, the more likely we are to create good citizens!”

 

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. AC57 says:

      Props to this kid, most definitely. That drive to pursue what you love is what points you to success. I may not agree with his positions on development (the rules do need to be clearer and more efficient, but not every project should have to go through community boards. That drives developers away, results in less building, and increases the prices of those new houses.) but I respect his opinions and admire the work he’s putting in, as a fellow high schooler.

    2. dannyboy says:

      All politics are local.

      • manhattan mark says:

        I’m proud to be in the first graduation of Booker T. Washington in 1951. Juiian Giordano seems very prepared for his community board assignment. All of us on the upper west side
        should be proud of him.

    3. Bob Lamm says:

      Wonderful young man and wonderful story.

    4. CB7 Dropout says:

      If he can sit through a full board meeting, he should get an endurance award and a scholarship!

    5. Well it is about time!!!
      FINALLY NEW YOUNG BLOOD!!!
      CB7 NOW going the right direction!!!

    6. Bobby Panza says:

      Thank you Julian

    7. D.I. Malin says:

      Great kid. Great family. Meeting and collaborating with the Giordanos has been one of the highlights of my time on the UWS.

    8. Rosanne Tuso says:

      Julian, you are an incredible young man. The way you research, investigate and follow through is inspiring. I wish more youths of your generation, and older, would contribute. I’m proud to say that you are my cousin.

    9. Levinia Hutner says:

      A major WOW!!! Our country is going to be in better hands in the future because of Julian and his peers’ clear critical thinking skills combined with the energy of youth. It’ll make me pay attention to those running for office in 2020 whose voice echos Julian’s!!!

    10. NYYgirl says:

      Great article; definitely showing to my kids (after they finish their homework…) sounds like a great kid!

    11. Julian, Proud to be one of the other 49 CB7 members alongside you. You’re an inspiration to all of us. Barbara

    12. Blanche says:

      Wow, thank you, Julian — so impressive!

    13. Deb says:

      Julian – you are an inspiration and it is wonderful to have you in our neighborhood! I am putting this on my groups Facebook Page – UWS Save Our Stores. If you need another project… just saying… check us out!

    14. Soundsbetterthanitis says:

      Spirited and free discourse is key to our social contract but few will feel free to criticize a kid’s position/opinion as they would an adult’s — correctly — because kids tend to be more sensitive and adults rightly won’t want to risk hurting kid’s feelings even without craziness of modern politics. What kind of society would we be lauding exposing kids to criticism and hurly burly of that kind (even subtracting the modern day nuttiness? Not one I would applaud. So stick with model UN or student government and let political roles wait for adulthood. 16 and a city politician is not a commendable policy even though civics engagement is highly desirable.

      • Nancy says:

        You are very short sighted. Many 16 year olds today are well aware of what is happening around them. They are engaged with a full spectrum of resources to guide them in their thought process. How insulting to assume his feelings will be hurt. This young man also has the benefit of parents who are also guiding him. Go Julian! I hope there are many more like you who will contribute their voices. You are an inspiration for sure! Thank you!

        • Soundsbetterthanitis says:

          Totally missed point. the issue is not whether this specific child has emotional management skills average 16 year olds envy, but rather whether *the adults* engaging children in political discourse will be as deferential to and not critical of children’s opinions — from ingrained sense that adults shouldn’t come down hard on kids because they are kids — instead of truly engaging with and where needed rejecting even children politicians’ opinions as political discourse with attendant real life impact requires. civics engagement in kids is great, kids as politicians not so much.

    15. Shaen Begleiter says:

      Julian. Congratulations on your accomplishment and good luck in your future activities. Thank you for your desire to want to be involved in your community and for helping out your dad.

    16. Judy says:

      Kudos to Gale Brewer for advocating for youth and appointing Julian Giordano. Young people make up a large percentage of our society, are directly effected by issues in our communities, and can bring fresh points of view unencumbered by out-dated thinking and generational echo chambers. Our society benefits from having a diversity of voices at the table; including youth. We underestimate them at our own peril.