By Rebecca Henely
Since Community Board 4 has not had a district manager for many months, Christian Cassagnol has had a lot to do since stepping into the position recently, but he is confident he is the best man for the job.
“I’m holding up,” said Cassagnol, who was named to the position in October. “I feel good about it.”
CB 4, which covers the neighborhoods of Elmhurst and Corona south of Roosevelt Avenue, lost its previous district manager, Richard Italiano, in January when he collapsed at his desk with a heart attack and later died at Elmhurst Hospital Center. Cassagnol, 34, had worked closely with Italiano as CB 4’s community associate and was eventually chosen for the job in October.
“[The board members] knew Richard and they were very close to Richard and they knew I was very close to Richard,” he said.
A former resident of Corona, Cassagnol attended PS 14 and IS 145 growing up, then moved on to Bayside High School. He was a member of CB 4’s paid staff for 10 years, and while he currently lives in Glendale, he still knows the communities and the board itself.
He described the communities of Elmhurst and southern Corona as diverse but still close enough that neighbors look out for each other.
“We’re all very familiar with each other over here,” Cassagnol said.
In his first few weeks, Cassagnol said he has been getting the paperwork and other matters straightened out, moving toward hiring someone to take over his former position and dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Cassagnol said he had been to the Rockaways to help, but that the CB 4 communities were mostly unscathed other than some downed trees.
“I’m very thankful that we were not hit,” he said.
Moving forward, Cassagnol said the biggest problem in the communities are overcrowding and overdevelopment. He said the reported U.S. census’ recent undercount of the neighborhoods of Queens also means Elmhurst and southern Corona could be slighted when it comes to needed services such as sanitation.
But one of Cassagnol’s main goals is to raise neighborhood awareness of CB 4 and its role. He said he finds that many young people in New York City grow up unaware of community boards and that many adults are not informed either.
“We are a mini-City Hall, so to speak,” he said.
Cassagnol said he wants to go into local schools and inform students about the board and explain how it can help if a resident is having trouble.
“I just want people to know that there is a place that you can go,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.