Downtown

Adams pushes for more diversity on community boards

December 26, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Community Board 10 Chairperson Doris Cruz brought her grandchildren, Jonas and Lily Cruz, to her first meeting as the leader of the board last year. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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Brooklyn’s community board membership rosters will reflect the true diversity of the borough if Borough President Eric Adams gets his way in the New Year. Adams is currently busy trying to encourage residents of all races, religions and nationalities to apply for memberships on their local community boards in 2018.

In a statement recently issued by his office, Adams said he specifically wants to see more Asian, Black, Latino and LGBTQ residents submit application forms.

And millennials might want to sit up and take notice. Adams is pushing for a youth movement. Community board members are supposed to be at least 18 years of age, but a state law adopted in 2015 grants borough presidents the ability to appoint two members to each community board who are between the ages of 16 and 18.

“I hope that this new application cycle will bring in a diverse applicant pool of community leaders, including people who haven’t engaged in civic life before, who will stand up and make their voices heard in every corner of the borough from Greenpoint to Gerritsen Beach, from Canarsie to Cypress Hills,” Adams said in a statement. 

In his call for new community board members, Adams noted the important role boards play. 

“Community boards provide a public forum to help to move our city forward, connect Brooklynites with the many resources and services available to them, as well as address neighborhood concerns at the hyper-local level,” Adams stated.

There are 59 community boards in New York City, including 18 in Brooklyn. The boards operate under the aegis of the borough presidents.

Technically speaking, borough presidents appoint all 50 members of a community board. But half of the members are appointed by the borough presidents based on the recommendations of local City Council members.

Community boards, which have been around since the City Charter was revised in 1975, are made up of 50 volunteers who hold public meetings once a month.

Among their functions: The boards advise city government on a neighborhood’s wishes on zoning and land use issues. While the board’s say is not final, city officials do take the board’s wishes into account when making the ultimate decision on a zoning issue.

One of the most important functions of a community board is to present recommendations to the city on which capital budget items in a neighborhoods should get funding, like constructing a new school. The boards issue lists of their recommendations to city agencies at the beginning of the city’s budget negotiating process each year.

The boards also take non-binding votes on such issues as whether a street fair should be held or whether a restaurant should be granted a liquor license by the New York State Liquor Authority. 

Anyone applying for community board membership must be a New York City resident and must live, work in, or have a professional interest in the particular board district.

In each community board district, there is a district office operated by a district manager, a paid employee of the board whose job is to deal with constituent concerns such as sanitation collections, potholes and broken street lights.

Brooklyn’s community boards are an intriguing mixture of longtime members and newcomers. 

Community Board 10, which represents the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton, is led by Chairperson Doris Cruz. Cruz has been a community board member for more than 20 years. She was elected by her peers to serve as their chairperson in June of 2016.

Cruz cut her teeth as a civic activist in Bay Ridge, a route taken by many community board members. She was a longtime member of the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Associations, a group made up of the leaders of more than 25 neighborhood block associations.

When Cruz presided over her first meeting as chairperson in September of 2016, she said in her opening remarks that the board’s membership reflected the diversity of the neighborhoods under the board’s jurisdiction. “When I look out at our board, I see an incredibly diverse community. We have come together to work together,” she said.

Another Board 10 member, Brian Kaszuba, was appointed in 2103 and currently serves as chairman of the Zoning and Land Use Committee.

“I wanted to join the community board because I thought it was a good way to give back to the community,” Kaszuba told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Kaszuba, the associate director of the Center for NYC Law and an adjunct professor at New York Law School, had another reason for joining. His job gave him a familiarity with zoning issues “and I was interested in sharing my knowledge,” he said. 

Being a community board member “is also a great way to stay informed as to what is going on in terms of new projects coming into a neighborhood and policy changes by the city,” Kaszuba said. 

Kaszuba urged residents to consider applying for community board memberships. 

“We’re always looking for new members. It’s a great way to be involved. And it’s important that all voices be heard,” he told the Eagle.

Applications for memberships are now available. The applications must be submitted online at www.brooklynusa.org. The closing date is Feb. 15.

 


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