Ninfa Segarra has worn many hats during her long career in public service. She was the last president of the now defunct New York City Board of Education, and also was New York City’s deputy mayor for education and human services under Rudy Giuliani. Among her other roles, Segarra, who is a lawyer, also served as senior legal consultant at the Hispanic Federation. She currently sits on board of Somos conference, the annual event that brings together politicians from New York for networking, deal-making and service in support of the island territory.
City & State’s New York Nonprofit Media caught up with Segarra at this year’s conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she discussed the programming, opportunities for doing service and the absence of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who chose not to attend.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How’s this year’s Somos conference coming along?
It’s been absolutely wonderful and very productive, especially in the workshops. We have had discussions on everything from AI, to safety net hospitals, to education to what we need to do to make our city much more age-friendly. There were concrete recommendations coming out of the workshops that will be presented to the Legislature.
Please talk about the day of service. Isn’t that the biggest reason for having Somos each year?
The day of service is a central point of being here. It's why we're in Puerto Rico. It's to leave behind, not just that we are helping the economy by being here, but to leave behind tangible evidence of our concern and love for the people on the island, especially after all they've gone through. So it's a real pleasure to be able to paint walls, to meet children, to be able to share cultural events with those that have not been in Puerto Rico before, to learn about our history and our art. So there's a little bit of everything and the opportunities filled up immediately.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams passed on Somos this year, because of a freeze on all unnecessary travel and to prioritize the city’s business over being in San Juan for all the networking and parties. Was the mayor missed?
I give my congratulations to the entire board, because we've made sure that this is a constructive working session this year. But the parties are important, because it's part of networking. And that's critical to getting our message across, to building new alliances with groups. So you need those informal settings. Not having the mayor here is unfortunate, because even if he did a cameo appearance or something, it would have meant a lot for us. We've always had both the mayor and the governor present.