Former chairperson served for 26 years
A longstanding member of Community Board 10 is stepping down.
Joanne Seminara, who has been a member for 26 years, announced at the community board’s March 18 meeting that she is resigning.
Seminara enjoyed a long tenure on the local board and served as its chairperson for three years, leaving her leadership post in 2013 due to term limits. Community Board 10 represents Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
Seminara said she was stepping down to spend more time with her family. She and her husband, Pierre Lehu, a writer, have two children and three grandchildren.
Seminara, a partner in the law firm of Grimaldi & Yeung, was given an opportunity by Chairperson Doris Cruz to speak to the community board at the start of Monday night’s meeting, and Seminara used her time at the podium to sum up her decades of service.
“I am resigning from the board after 26 years. That’s a lot of years!” she told her soon-to-be former colleagues in remarks that were broadcast in a YouTube live stream of the meeting.
The community board worked on numerous issues during her tenure, she recalled, including defeating a controversial proposal to turn Third and Fifth avenues into one-way streets, rezoning Dyker Heights to protect the neighborhood from overdevelopment, and shepherding the design of P.S./I.S. 30, a public school at 7002 Fourth Ave. that was built at the former site of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church.
Known as the “Green Church,” the religious institution was built in 1899 in the Romanesque Revival style and featured a unique green serpentine façade with a clock tower. The church was torn down in 2008. At the community board’s urging, the New York City School Construction Authority incorporated a clock tower mimicking the church’s tower into the design of the school.
Prior to serving as chairperson, Seminara chaired the board’s Zoning Committee. It taught her a lot, she said. “I have a good appreciation for zoning and how it sets the table for the community,” she told this newspaper in an interview a few days after her farewell remarks at the community board meeting. Part of the Zoning Committee’s purpose was to “keep the neighborhood as livable as it is,” she said.
“It was a beautiful neighborhood and it’s still a beautiful neighborhood,” she added.
When Seminara was elected by her peers to be community board chairperson, she said she worked to ensure that everyday residents of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights had a chance to speak out at meetings. “It’s important for people to feel they are heard. I felt that I was really open and not controlling,” she told this newspaper.
During her tenure, Seminara sought to shed light on a problem that has often remained hidden in the neighborhood: the plight of sex workers. She often spoke about young women smuggled into the U.S. illegally who were then exploited by their sponsors and forced into prostitution by working at massage parlors masquerading as day spas.
Seminara is a political force in Bay Ridge. She is the Democratic district leader of the 64th Assembly District and said she intends to remain in that post.
Seminara can also add the title of writer to her resume. She and Judith Grimaldi, founder of Grimaldi & Yeung, wrote a book in 2015 titled “5@55: The 5 Essential Legal Documents You Need by Age 55,” about the necessity of having five documents — a will, a health care proxy, a living will, a power of attorney and a digital diary — in place.
At the community board meeting, Cruz congratulated Seminara for her years of service. “Joanne, you were just terrific!” she told her.
Editor’s Note: Joanne Seminara at one time provided unrelated legal services to the author of this article.