Denise Keehan-Smith, who served on Community Board 2 (CB 2) for four years, was overwhelmingly elected to serve as chairperson at the board’s June meeting.
Keehan-Smith will take over from former chair Pat O’Brien, who stepped down after 1 1/2 years in the post. A third-generation Woodside resident, she attended St. Sebastian School and lives in the Big Six Towers, a co-op that is home to almost 1,000 families.
After serving on her co-op’s board, Keehan-Smith decided to “be a strong voice for people” in her community by joining CB 2. She was elected to the secretary position in November 2014, became the chair of the transportation committee and served on the city services and public safety committee with O’Brien.
“I took over his chair for transportation, and that was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “It was really a critical time within the committee. It was important to me to review research, understand fully what was going on, what our position was, what the issue was on various Department of Transportation issues and I really took an interest in it.”
She said her time on the committee also exposed her to the issues facing Long Island City and Sunnyside. O’Brien discussed the position with her and felt she would be a good candidate, especially because she is a home-based employee. Keehan-Smith is a global account manager for a travel technology company with a master’s degree in technology management.
Keehan-Smith said she is excited for the great learning opportunity and to tackle some of the larger issues facing CB 2, which include the rapid expansion not only of Long Island City but of Sunnyside and Woodside as well.
“Development is moving further east without infrastructure to support it,” she said.
She is also paying close attention to the waterfront development in Long Island City, the lack of alternatives to the 7 train and Q60 bus and the new ferry routes, which she believes can alleviate some of the subway congestion.
Though Keehan-Smith said she is not as vocal as some people on the board, she hopes to encourage compromise.
“I’m very analytical,” she said. “I like a little bit of time to digest, make sure I understand the issues. It’s important to me that you have, not everybody has to agree, but we all have to agree to work together toward the best solution.”
Before O’Brien, Joe Conley served as chairperson of CB 2 for two decades. Keenan-Smith said she has a deep admiration for the former chairs and hopes to bring her own perspective to the board.
“I take it seriously from the perspective that it’s important work that we do,” she said. “You have to bring people together. That’s really what I’m going to try to focus on … try to work with people to work in everyone’s best interest.”