New chair Julie Reyes: I am up to the challenge of running Community Board 8

Already beginning her new role, leader wants more public involvement


For newly named Community Board 8 Chair Julie Reyes, being in charge means holding back on her own opinions and hearing all sides first. The longtime board member and Realtor at Grand Lux Realty was voted unanimously on June 30 to succeed Laura Spalter, who termed out.

“I know that it will be a challenge,” Reyes said. “I know that Laura as past chair has done tremendous work. And I know the hard work that goes into it. So it’s a challenge, it’ll be exciting and something different and new.”

Reyes has been a real estate agent for about 15 years and a part of CB8 for almost 25 years. She’s been a chair for public safety, economic development, treasurer, several nominating committees and most recently was part of the nominating committee to hire Farrah Rubin as district manager, replacing Ciara Gannon.

Both jobs have their similarities, Reyes explained. They require remaining un-opinionated, giving support, guidance, and information in a non-biased way. While Reyes may not personally consider buying a property herself as a Realtor, a customer may love it.

“You have to present the facts to them and let them decide,” Reyes said. “So as a board we have to give the facts and let the board members decide.”

The native New York resident has primarily lived in the Bronx her whole life. She had no complaints about her family life nor her parents who were hard working members of the middle class. Since she was young, Reyes’ parents instilled values of community and giving back. As a teenager, Reyes volunteered as a candy striper at a local home for the aged.

Reyes received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College and is currently more than halfway to getting a masters in real estate. Since 2008 she’s worked at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Sotheby’s International Realty in Riverdale and several other agencies.

She was one of the founders of a non-profit organization for breast cancer awareness that went to various communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. When the original founder of the organization asked Reyes to get involved she joined, starting out as a secretary. Following the founder’s exit, Reyes was elected president of the organization. It was during her time at the now-defunct organization that she got involved in CB8.

After the organization had the Bronx’s very first breast cancer awareness parade, the borough president at the time advised the organization to go to the various community boards and introduce themselves. It wasn’t until then that Reyes realized just how many community boards there were and the work they did.

Reyes ended up joining the board in 1999. She learned about the board structures and procedures from the original district manager, the late Grace Belkin. Reyes explained how Belkin would take new people under her wing and guide them.

At the beginning of her term with the board, Reyes served as chair for public safety. One thing she was proud of was when she was able to rally together elected officials, community and board members in preventing an eating and drinking establishment with entertainment, dancing and catering from opening in a residential area and thereby disturbing the peace. The state of authorities listened to all of the parties and agreed that it would not go up.

Back then the board wasn’t as diverse. Reyes explained how through the years the board gradually grew more diverse in everything from the area board members lived to their gender and nationality.

“Learning about various people from different walks of life, I’ve always found that interesting,” Reyes said. “How we can work together and know what each community needs, and help get the resources to the various communities.”

Reyes decided to give being a chair a shot because she enjoyed being on the board and now had a lot of flexibility. Her 10 years at the non-profit breast cancer awareness organization provided the necessary background for the work needed, she said.

One of the most important issues to Reyes moving forward is filling the committee chairs that are currently vacant. During CB8’s June meeting, all committee chairs were taken with the exception of aging, environment and sanitation, and housing. She says that committee chairs are vital to the board and hopes that in a few months she can say the vacant chairs have been filled.

Another item on Reyes’ list for discussion is to revisit an old idea of creating a non-profit that would raise private funds to help the board’s budget. As treasurer, Reyes formed a special committee to consider that creation. A lot of research was done and the idea has resurfaced recently.

One difference Reyes leadership will have compared to Spalter is that the board is largely out of the pandemic, with meetings being held in person again.  She is excited to meet with some of the newer members that she hasn’t had the chance to interact with personally. One benefit of Zoom meetings was that it had a lot of community involvement, so one challenge is making sure that participation continues.

She has confidence in the board, saying vice chair Sergio Villaverde, secretary Margaret Della, and treasurer Scott Krompinger are “tremendous in what they do.”

“I think it’s a team,” Reyes said. “It’s not just, you know, the chairs. It’s a team.”

How Reyes plans to act as chair is completely different than as she did a board member. During Reyes’ nominating committee interview for the position of chair she told the committee that “you can act one way as a member, and a different way as a chair.” Despite being an opinionated person, Reyes believes that as a chair it is essential for her to curb her opinions more than ever to let others speak first.

“Sometimes people are guided by what a chair says, like their opinion,” Reyes said. “And my opinions are just that, opinions. I want other people to start getting more engaged, you know. Let them speak, let them have a piece of involvement so that they can get more involved.”

Reyes officially began as CB8 chair July 1. The board will be having an emergency meeting Thursday, July 20 at its offices to discuss the matter of a proposed cricket venue at Van Cortlandt Park.

Julie Reyes, Community Board 8, CB8, chair, Grand Lux Realty,