Recently, the City asked community boards citywide to cut their operating budget by $5,000 for this fiscal year. This will be followed by an additional $5,000 budget cut for the next fiscal year. These cuts will dramatically affect the boards’ City Charter-mandated duty to create comprehensive plans for their communities. The Community-Based Planning Task Force believes that exactly the opposite should happen — Boards need more funding to enable them to undertake effective planning processes. After the jump you’ll find our letter to Mark Page, Director of the Office of Managment and Budget. Please use this as a framework for your own letter — don’t let the City get away with taking away important resources from its communities.

Mark Page, Director
Office of Management and Budget
75 Park Place
New York, New York 10007 

Dear Mr. Page:

We are writing to urge that you reconsider the proposed cuts to the city’s 59 community boards. The future ability of community boards to perform their charter-mandated responsibilities will be thrown into serious jeopardy if these cuts are allowed to go forward. 

We are the Community-Based Planning Task Force—a coalition of community boards, citywide civic groups, grass roots neighborhood organizations, academics, and environmental justice activists that advocates for a more open, transparent, inclusive, and participatory planning process. Community boards are New Yorkers’ gateway to participation in the planning and development decisions that directly impact their neighborhoods, and we have consistently recommended increasing the boards’ resources so that they can plan more effectively for their districts.

The average community district has a population of over 130,000 people, making it comparable in size to Elizabeth, New Jersey and Albany, New York. All board responsibilities are carried out by a skeleton staff, and any extra personnel, such as planners, must be paid from funds raised beyond the board’s approximately $200,000 annual budget—which also pays for all salaries, office supplies, equipment, printing, and mailing. In comparison, Albany’s Division of Planning has an annual budget of $370,000 and employs six full-time staff. While the New York City Charter specifies that the boards are authorized to hire planners, it is the exception rather than the rule that they do so—they are forced to choose between planning expertise and basic operating costs. 

The city is poised to add one million new residents; some districts have already grown by nearly 15 percent over the last census period. Community boards will be expected to make service delivery and planning decisions for this new surge of population—meaning additional siting of city facilities; more land use applications to consider; more variance applications to review; more people to inform and engage—critical work that keeps the city operating smoothly—with even less money. We urge that you enable the boards to perform their duties effectively—at the very least, by keeping their budgets intact.

Sincerely,

Eve Baron, Director
The Municipal Art Society Planning Center
On behalf of the Community-Based Planning Task Force

Cc:

Honorable Michael Bloomberg

Honorable Christine Quinn

Honorable Scott Stringer

Honorable Marty Markowitz

Honorable Adolfo Carrion, Jr.

Honorable Helen M. Marshall

Honorable James P. Molinaro

Ms. Nazli Parvizi, Commissioner, Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit

 

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