Vasantrai M. Gandhi, 68, previously treasurer, was voted in as chairman of Community Board 3 during the board's annual elections, held at the Louis Armstrong School IS 227 at 32-02 Junction Blvd. in East Elmhurst. He replaced Richard Cecere, who served for three years as chairman.Gandhi said his election was a plus for the community, which has a large South Asian presence including Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis that the 2000 U.S. Census said formed about 13 percent of the population."The immigrants feel that their representative is being elected and they get a feeling of inclusion," Gandhi said. He has served for 15 years with Community Board 3 and was also a founding member of the Jackson Heights Merchants Association. He participates in several Indian associations. He serves as vice president of the Gujarati Samaj of New York and is a member of the Indian Advisory Board.Most community boards in Queens are still chaired by residents of European descent despite the number of immigrants and minorities in the borough, the most ethnically diverse county in the country. The Charter Revision Commission in 1975 codified the 59 community boards - which began in 1963 as community planning boards - as they are today.The president of New York Gold Company on 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Gandhi said there were a number of issues he wanted to address as chairman.He said he would urge the city to increase the annual rent payments by the Port Authority for the rights to lease the properties at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in future negotiations. He said the city should ask for $120 million per year for the two properties when the last agreement expires in 2015, millions more than the city is asking. CB 3, as a neighbor of the airport, would benefit from an increase in payments, he said..Athough the CB 3 district saw two new schools constructed in the past five years, he said he would push for expanding existing schools, noting that families continue to move into the district.Another result of the increase in population was illegal construction, which he said should be curtailed. As an example, he said that the restaurant El Rancho Jubilee, on 93-10 23rd Ave. in East Elmhurst, illegally constructed an expansion and last week asked for a variance to make the changes legal. The board rejected the request, he said.Gandhi recognized the limits on the board which is not involved in enforcement, only making recommendations that are considered by the borough president in land use and other decisions.Because of the limits to the board's authority, issues such as the rising commercial rents in the Jackson Heights area, cannot be tackled head on. "But we can play a useful role, " he said, encouraging landlords to lower rents.Though he was pleased to be chairman, he said he did not actively seek the job. "The responsibility fell open and I agreed to accept." His current term lasts one year and he can hold the position for a maximum of three terms.Additional executive board members voted in were Grace Lawrence as vice chairwoman; Norma Jimenez as second vice chairwoman; Darryl Hoss as secretary; Arthur Teiler as treasurer; Howard Dent as member-at-large; Luis A. Gomez, as member-at-large; Stephen Kulhanek, as member-at-large; and Edwin Westley, as member-at-large.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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