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Queens Chronicle

40 years of looking out for neighbors

Betty Braton singled out during evening for community boards

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Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:32 pm, Thu Oct 17, 2019.

Betty Braton runs a community board meeting the same way Moses ran the Exodus from Egypt.

You get everybody moving in the same direction and keep reassuring them that, sooner or later, they’ll all reach the Promised Land.

Her CB meetings move briskly enough that everyone is home in time to see the 10 o’clock news, a rarity in the civic business.

“That’s the schoolteacher in me,” the chairwoman of CB 10 admitted.

She has been doing civic meetings for 40 years, the last 29 as the head of the CB that covers Howard Beach and Ozone Park.

Now, she has the commendation to prove it. It was presented to her last week by Borough President Melinda Katz at the annual Community Board Service Awards Ceremony at Borough Hall.

In Howard Beach, it is hard to find anyone who can remember a time before Betty was head of CB 10.

She is one of those rare people in the neighborhood who is instantly recognizable by her first name alone — as in: “Did Betty tell you that?” or “I’ll bet Betty knows.”

She calls herself “a liberal in Trump country.” But for 28 years in a row, she has been re-elected unopposed.

Not since the first time she ran for the top spot in 1990 — when a neighbor named John Marus also vied for the open seat — did Braton have a contested election. (After the election, she asked Marus to be her vice chair.)

She is the longest-serving community board chairperson in the borough. “Nobody wants to throw me out yet,” she said.

Braton, the daughter of a New York City firefighter, lives in the same house in Old Howard Beach she was raised in with her twin sister and older brother.

“I grew up in a family where you were taught to get involved,” she said. “I learned young because my father was involved.”

Howard Beach in the 1950s and ’60s was “the best of everything,” she recalled.

“It was a small town in a big city. You knew everybody, and the water was our playground.”

Straight out of college, she stumbled into the business of local civic work.

“Somebody died or quit — I don’t remember — and the community board couldn’t find someone to be recording secretary,” she said.

“The job was taking notes during the meetings. I was just out of college and that was something I could do.”

Eventually, Braton became a sixth-grade teacher, working in city schools for 34 years, balancing her job with an outsized appetite for community work.

“You name it, I was on it,” she said with a laugh.

As CB 10 chairwoman, she is perhaps proudest of the early backing she built for constructing the AirTrain.

“People thought it was a terrible idea and that no one was going to use it,” she said.

“Would I have loved to see them build a transportation line all the way to the city? Yes. But I knew it was going to serve a purpose and people were going to use it.

“The one thing I’m good at is seeing the possibilities of things. I’m not an either-or person.”

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