Community Board 5 member ousted over anti-trans resolution: source

Craig Slutzkin serves as Community Board 5's second vice chair.
Craig Slutzkin serves as Community Board 5’s second vice chair.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is not reappointing a Community Board 5 (CB5) leader who voted for an anti-trans resolution in a separate community education council, according to a source who told Gay City News the vote was a driving factor behind the decision to oust him.

Craig Slutzkin, who is the second vice chair of CB5 and serves on Community Education Council District 2 (CEC2), faced widespread criticism over his support for CEC2’s Reso. 248, which passed on March 20 and called for a new committee that could review and potentially oppose trans inclusion in school sports. Community education councils were created to give members of the public an opportunity to discuss school-related issues, but they are separate from the Department of Education and their resolutions are non-binding.

Less than a week after the vote, alums of Townsend Harris High School in Queens — where Slutzkin serves as the Townsend Harris Alumni Association co-president and treasurer — penned an open letter with hundreds of signatures blasting his “unacceptable support for transphobia” as a member of CEC2 and labeling him as a transphobe who “should not hold leadership positions within the school’s alumni association.” 

Former State Senator Thomas Duane speaks during a Community Board 5 meeting on April 11.
Former State Senator Thomas Duane speaks against Community Education Council District 2’s anti-trans resolution during a Community Board 5 meeting on April 11.Zoom/Community Board 5

The community outrage continued in April when LGBTQ advocates and elected officials — including current and former city and state lawmakers — flooded a CB5 meeting and called on the board to condemn the resolution.

One way borough presidents wield power is by appointing individuals to local community boards — and Levine apparently had enough of Slutzkin, though the beep is not directly commenting on the decision.

“The office of the Manhattan borough president does not issue public statements regarding individual appointments due to the myriad factors that contribute to these decisions,” the Manhattan borough president’s office told Gay City News. “However, we take a holistic approach and consider everything during this process.”

In an emailed statement, Slutzkin told Gay City News that he has served on CB5 “with distinction” for more than a decade — including posts such as secretary and second vice chair — and said “the borough president’s decision to not reappoint me is incomprehensible and may be interference driven by political reasons.” 

“My tenure has been exemplary and there is absolutely nothing about my service to the board that would preclude a reappointment,” said Slutzkin, who said he is running for chair against the incumbent, Samir Lavingia.

As for the resolution, Slutzkin said it “calls for dialogue on the difficult topic of transgender children in sports.” 

“I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to engage in difficult conversations with honesty and integrity,” Slutzkin said. “I want to make it clear that I harbor no bias of any kind, whether it is based on race, creed, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.”

In addition to Slutzkin, CEC2 — which covers some of the same areas of Manhattan as CB5 — boasts members such as Maud Maron, who was a panelist at a Moms for Liberty event earlier this year and sponsored CEC2’s anti-trans sports resolution. Maron and Slutzkin both serve on the executive board of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education (PLACE), which the Townsend Harris High School community members described as “a conservative organization dedicated to moving New York City’s education policies to the right.”

While anti-trans policies have passed in other regions, the CEC2 resolution was especially controversial because it passed in Manhattan — the home of the Stonewall Inn and a key hub for the queer community in New York City. 

Kerry Keenan, a Chelsea-based mother of two whose children — including her trans daughter — attended CEC2 schools, told Gay City News she was “stunned” when she learned about the resolution’s passage and said she fully supports the decision not to reappoint Slutzkin. Keenan has long volunteered with organizations such as PFLAG and she successfully advocated for policies such as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). This vote, however, caught her off guard. 

“I think I was mostly angry at the absolute blatant transphobia and bigotry that was all over that resolution and a little mad at myself for not paying enough attention to last community education council elections,” said Keenan, who heaped praise on the borough president and other elected officials who have condemned the resolution. “I’m proud to live somewhere where all our elected officials are standing up for our kids.”

Keenan said Levine made a brave decision given the expected backlash, which immediately started on May 7. CB5’s nominating committee sent a letter to Levine defending Slutzkin and asking the borough president to reappoint him.

“Failing to reappoint such a respected, reliable, and experienced person as him to our Community Board Five is unprecedented and outrageous,” stated the letter, which was shared with Gay City News.

Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City board member Caleb Simmons.
Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City board member Caleb Simmons calls on Community Board 5 to reject the anti-trans resolution passed by Community Education Council District 2.Zoom/Community Board 5

Others, though, are glad to see Slutzkin on his way out. Out gay Assemblymember Tony Simone, who represents Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown and part of Lincoln Center, said Slutzkin’s vote for the resolution “renders him unfit” to be on a community board.

“A resolution passed in a CEC may seem insignificant, but the message to trans students that they are not welcome has reverberations, and the consequences can be dire,” Simone told Gay City News. “This discriminatory behavior by Slutzkin has made it obvious that he has no place as a member of a community board, and I applaud Borough President Levine for taking the step not to reappoint him.”

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, which sent several members to a CB5 meeting last month to rip the resolution and condemn Slutzkin, also welcomed the borough president’s decision.

“When trans kids are under attack, it is essential that we rally to defend and protect them,” the club’s president, Gabriel Lewenstein, said in a written statement. “New York City is the heart of the LGBTQ movement, and we know that anti-LGBT and anti-trans beliefs are not representative of the vast majority of our city. The Stonewall Democrats of NYC thank Borough President Mark Levine for ensuring that community boards advance the best interests of those they represent.”