Juliet Payabyab ‘honored’ to be appointed to Astoria community board

Juliet Payabyab, a newcomer to NYC (right); today, a staunch leader of her community.

By Cristina DC Pastor

On May 31, community leader and retired banker Juliet Payabyab became a member of the community board of Astoria in Queens. She will join 49 other individuals who will be advising elected officials and agencies about matters ranging from land use planning to scheduling of garbage collection. She was appointed to the position by acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee.

“No fast lane here,” said Juliet, a resident of Astoria for 44 years.  Over the last three years since expressing her desire to join the community board, she has been doing volunteer work, attending local meetings, listening to deliberations, and speaking out as a member of the public. She could not vote. As a CB member, her voice now carries a certain amount of power. 

census short

“Service on a Queens community board requires substantial time and energy,” said Lee in welcoming the new members. “I have every confidence and trust in these appointees’ commitment and abilities to serve and strengthen the future of the Borough.” Queens has 14 community boards with members serving a two-year term. 

According to Juliet, her appointment to the board was recognition for her three years of steady service in her district which covers Astoria, parts of Long Island City, and Woodside.  In an essay, she argued strongly for Filipino American representation in her district especially in a time of rising discrimination against Asians.

She has comprehensive knowledge of her hometown where she has lived since coming to NYC in 1976. “When I moved here 44 years ago, I found the neighborhood diverse, friendly and everything seemed so easy to find, and so close to transportations going to Manhattan or around Queens.  It is a quiet neighborhood,” she said in an email interview with The FilAm.

Coming to the U.S., Juliet and her sister decided to stay in New York although they have a brother who lived in California with his family. Two other siblings passed on at an early age. Their parents – her father is from Batangas and her mother from Mindoro — would join their daughters in Astoria. Both are now deceased and buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery.

Her parents, Virginia and Angeles Anonuevo, Sr., shown here with former first lady Imelda Marcos, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in NYC in early 1990s.
With sister Ching Balingao and brother Angeles Anonuevo, Jr.

Home has always been Astoria where foreign dishes like kebabs and souvlakis became a staple, and commuting to Manhattan by bus or train was efficient. Over time, she came to know her district intimately through issues over delivery of services, health care coverage, and affordable housing for seniors, seeing also how socio-economic gap among residents has widened.

A Banking and Finance graduate from the University of the East, Juliet’s first job in NYC was at Manufacturers Hanover Trust (now Chase Bank) on Madison Avenue.  She was Assistant Manager at the International Banking Division when she transferred to PaineWebber Inc. (now UBS bank) to join the Treasury Department. She was later recruited by Merrill Lynch (now owned by Bank of America) where she stayed for 15 years until her retirement. Through the years, she has remained connected with her community through various organizations.

In her retirement, she went back to school as she wanted to teach English as a Second Language to adult immigrants.

There are no known issues that trouble FilAms in Astoria, she said. But such may be a sweeping statement because some ‘kababayan’ are “of the shy type” and do not attend community meetings.  “Majority of Filipinos are focused on religious prayer groups, prayer meetings, the needs of their families, and work.” With her on the community board, she would like to reach out in the hope “they might express themselves to a fellow kababayan like me.”

Juliet has scaled down her involvement with the community limiting herself to organizations dear to her – the Philippine American Communities of the East Coast (PACEC) and United Mindoro International, a regional club formed in honor of her province. Two years ago, she led a community outcry against the organization that mounts the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue, accusing it of funds misuse. It was a popular campaign but support fizzled out.  She devoted herself to the concerns of her neighborhood especially its elderly residents. She initiated a fitness program called “Walk, run at your own pace,” a summer activity in Astoria Park. Astoria resident Consul Arman Talbo of the Philippine Consulate is a regular. 

Two more hats

Her appointment to the community board is just the beginning. Encouraged by Councilman Costa Constantinides of the 22nd District and other local officials to take on more responsibilities, Juliet became a  member of Astoria’s Budget Participatory Committee as well as the Advisory Council of State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell. Being one of Barnwell’s advisers excites her. “I share during meetings my observations on ongoing vandalism in some areas without sufficient lighting, overflowing garbage cans, speeding cars along school zones, and dangers for pedestrians trying to beat traffic lights,” she said.

Attending a meeting of the Budget Participatory Committee.

She said her way of educating herself more about Astoria is by listening to fellow members share observations, concerns and solutions on how to handle irritants in their own areas. “We get to meet, too, officers from our precincts and other business owners who will be sharing their problems.”

The FilAm community hailed Juliet’s new title.

“Congratulations to deeply rooted, time-tested, strongly motivated, genuinely concerned, meticulously hands-on and honest-to-goodness, down-to-earth community leader Juliet Payabyab,” writes NaFFAA State Treasurer Jan Andrada on Facebook.

Alex Esteban, VP for Internal Affairs of Handang Tumulong, touts Juliet’s qualities. “Tita Juliet is a great coach, strategist, visionary, change agent, decision maker and team player. Most importantly, she gets the work done.”

On June 16, Juliet prepared to attend her first meeting as a community board member. “I waited three years for this appointment.  I feel honored and fortunate to be given the chance to be part of the decision making in my community.”

census square

© The FilAm 2020

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: