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Each and every one of our city’s community boards is currently facing a budget cut of $35,000. Your community board provides a range of services vital to your community’s welfare, from overseeing essential municipal services, to ensuring that you have a voice in local decision-making, to serving as a place-based provider of constituent services. Community boards are the public’s interface with New York City’s enormous and complex government, and they are also government agencies’ conduit to the public.  Meaning, for example, that when the Department of Health needs to update a community on the spread of the H1N1 virus, it asks the community board for help with outreach.

Boards already suffer from underfunding, and cuts this deep mean that the public loses out the most:  fewer resources will mean tough choices about how to prioritize the many demands made on community boards every day as they struggle to both perform City Charter-mandated responsibilities and attend to the growing needs of constituents.

On Tuesday, June 9, at 11:00 a.m., on the steps of City Hall, join all five of New York’s borough presidents, all 59 of New York’s community boards, and community advocates of all stripes, in calling on the City Council for the restoration of community board budgets for the coming fiscal year. (This rally has been organized by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.)


Hope everyone had a restful holiday! Here are some stories we’ve been following recently:

  • Mayor Bloomberg said that the City will not provide any more public subsidies for Atlantic Yards (above the $230 million already pledged). (Brooklyn Paper)
  • Mayor Mike also allegedly removed Brooklyn Community Board 1 District Manager Gerry Esposito from an event for planning a protest of community board budget cuts. (Greenpoint Gazette)
  • “This is a good time for the city to rethink its approach to both community planning and citywide planning, starting with the real needs and priorities of its residents and workers instead of the amount of floor area that can be built.” (Tom Angotti explores “Zoning Without Planning” in Gotham Gazette)

As the above flyer indicates, Brooklyn Community Board 6 holds an informational meeting tonight with the Environmental Protection Agency.  They will discuss the EPA’s plans to designate the Gowanus Canal as a federal Superfund site.  The meeting will be at 6:30pm at the P.S. 32 Auditorium, 317 Hoyt St.

Also Gowanus-related, the Fifth Avenue Committee’s Accountable Development Working Group meets tomorrow, and will discuss the formation of a Gowanus Tenants’ Union.  This meeting will be from  6-8pm, at Fifth Avenue Committee, 621 DeGraw St. near Fourth Avenue (R train to Union).

Last week, Manhattan community boards 9, 10, 11, and 12, representing East, West, and Central Harlem; Washington Heights; and Inwood, joined the Harlem Community Development Corp. and the Harlem Business Alliance to sponsor the Upper Manhattan Economic Summit.

About 300 people, including local elected officials, representatives of local community groups,  area residents and business owners, attended this five-hour event.  The goal was, “to look at proactive strategies to provide economic support and development opportunities for our communities in the current economic crisis.”

Elected officials and representatives from the Empire State Development Corporation provided a primer on how federal economic stimulus funding will be distributed in Upper Manhattan and New York State, and participated in a discussion with local experts about strategies for community activism to provide support for local residents and businesses. Although community boards do not have a direct say in what projects receive stimulus funding, they do have an opportunity to help local organizations and small businesses connect with funding opportunities. Because stimulus funding must be distributed and spent quickly, establishing local priorities can be key.

Senator Charles Schumer told the crowd that he has not seen an event like this anywhere else in the State.  Summit sponsors plan to create a white paper as a follow up, which can serve as a guideline for other boards or organizations that may want to sponsor such an event.  In the meantime, check out this site for a video montage.

The New York Times reported this weekend on the results of the NYC Customer Survey, which was sent to 100,000 random households citywide last year, to measure residents’ opinions of local government services, quality of life, etc.  The conclusion: unsuprisingly, residents of tony Manhattan Community District 2, which includes SOHO and Greenwich Village, report greater satisfaction with City services and neighborhood quality than residents of Bronx Community District 3, which includes Morrisania, Claremont, Crotona Park East and parts of Melrose.

The districts that the Times chose to feature show the disparity that still exists between New York City’s neighborhoods.  For more details, check out the interactive graphic that the Times created, which maps all poll responses at the community district level.  While some City services, such as homelessness prevention, got low ratings citywide, in general, these maps clearly illustrate the low perception of City responsiveness and quality-of-life in areas such as the Mid- and South-Bronx and Eastern Brooklyn.

So how can the City address this disparity?  A start would be sufficiently funding community boards citywide.  Community boards provide much-needed services to their districts, and often are the first point of contact between the public and the administration.  Yet, as many neighborhoods are clearly dissatisfied with their City services, community board budgets are being slashed. The City Council is considering the City’s 2010 budget this month, so now is a great time to contact your council member and ask them to adequately fund community boards.

There has been much speculation floating around this week about ULURP, the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Last year in his State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would convene a Charter Revision Commission, an independent panel that will examine the City Charter and recommend changes. Their focus can be guided by the Mayor. Since then, rumors have been flying about when this Commission will convene and what their task will be, and fears that the Mayor will recommend doing away with community boards or borough presidents have run rampant.

This week, another rumor began flying: that the Commission will be tasked with making major changes to the ULURP process. The Carroll Gardens Courier quoted an unnamed source who speculated that the Mayor wants to change the process to allow less input from community boards and borough presidents in order to expedite development in the city.

However, the New York Observer spoke to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Monday, and she said: “In the next couple of years, we have a charter revision commission. I think that is a good opportunity for us to look and see how we can make ULURP even more democratic—small ‘d’—and even more community participatory.”

This seems to be a clear indication that an upcoming Charter Revision Commission may, in fact, consider changes to the ULURP process. This will provide an advocacy opportunity the likes of which have not been available for 20 years. (The ULURP process was established by a Charter Revision Commission in 1989). Charter Revision Commissions are required to go through a thorough public process when making their recommendations.

In the meantime, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pointed out to the Observer today that the Mayor may already be taking away community boards’ review power simply through the drastic budget cuts that he has proposed. Stringer said: “Are we at the tipping point where ramifications of this could be basically the collapse of the land use process? Because if you keep all these offices but kill the budgets, you’re killing the process.”

Stay tuned to this blog for more information about the Charter Revision Commission, as we attempt to separate truth from rumor and help to ensure public participation in the process.

Community boards, once known as community planning boards, are responsible for advising on land use and zoning matters, as well as service delivery and other community concerns.  Community Boards are also authorized by the New York City Charter to create plans for the future of their districts (known as 197-a plans).

Each board consists of up to 50 unsalaried members, appointed by the Borough President, with half nominated by the City Council Members who represent the community district.

Application deadlines for community board membership are coming up!  Find your community board here.

Applications are available online for:

Deadline January 15.
For more information, contact Shaan Kahn at Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, 212-669-4416.  There will be an information session held by BP Stringer’s office on Wednesday, January 7th from 6:30-8:00 pm at 1 Centre Street, 19th Floor.

The Bronx
Deadline February 6.
For more information, contact Tom Lucania at Borough President Adolfo Carrion’s office, 718-590-6005.

Deadline February 13.
For more information, contact Camille Socci at Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, 718-802-3700.

Staten Island
Deadline May 15.
For more information, contact Jason Razefsky at Borough President James Molinaro’s office, 718-816-2232.

Applications are available by calling Karen Koslowitz at Borough President Helen Marshall’s office: 718-286-2900.  City Council members often also have applications available at their offices.  Queens applications are due before January 14.

On Wednesday, December 10 and Thursday, December 18, Manhattan Borough President (and Community-Based Planning Task Force Friend) Scott Stringer will hold informational sessions about Manhattan’s community boards, including how to join. The December 10 session will be from 6:30-8:30pm at 1 Centre St., 19th floor; while the December 18th session will be from 6:30-8:30pm at 163 W. 125th St., Room 8A. RSVP to 212-669-4465 or RSVP(at), and specify which session you plan to attend.

Want to make a real difference in your community? Apply to join your community board. Tonight, from 6:30-8:30pm, Transportation Alternatives helps make applying easier than ever. They are hosting a party at the Open Planning Project (349 West 12th Street, 1st Floor), where they’ll provide snacks, drinks, staff to answer questions, community board applications and will even have notary on hand!

RSVPs were due last week, but we bet if you ask nice, they’ll let you come anyway. Contact Elena at 646-873-6036 or elena(at) for more information.

Last week, the Department of City Planning’s proposed rezoning frameworks for two districts in Brooklynmet with favorable reaction from the local community boards. Community Board 18 gave the preliminary go-ahead to a contextual rezoning of 300 blocks in the Canarsie area. This would would be the largest rezoning of its kind in the borough, and ULURP is expected to begin by the end of 2008, according to the Courier.

Meanwhile, Community Board 14 gave its preliminary support to the City’s much-discussed plan for rezoning 200 blocks of Flatbush. This rezoning focuses on protecting the homes of Victorian Flatbush, while upzoning some commercial strips and imposing height limits on some apartment buildings where none exitsted before. ULURP is also expected to begin on this plan by the end of this year, also according to the Courier.

Since 2000, The Community-Based Planning Task Force has been leading the effort to create a more meaningful role for communities in New York City’s planning and decision-making processes.

This blog intends to connect our Task Force and the public with opportunities to participate in shaping the city's future, and to inform about issues related to planning, decision-making, equity, social justice, and public participation.

Visit our About page for more information.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

We are currently taking a break from updating this calendar. For more information on upcoming opportunities for civic participation, please visit the links in our Blogroll.

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