Brooklyn Boro

Voters to decide future of community boards

There are 18 Boards in Brooklyn, 14 in Queens

September 5, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge, prepares to issue a report to the board. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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Voters will get to decide the future of the city’s 59 community boards when they go to the polls on Nov. 6.

On Wednesday, the commission officially handed in its report containing recommendations on changing the city’s charter, including a proposal to install term limits on community boards.

If the New York City Board of Elections approves, the commission’s proposals will be listed as propositions on the ballot in November.

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There are 18 community boards in Brooklyn and 14 in Queens, all of which would fall under any new provisions of the City Charter.

In an effort to make community boards more reflective of the neighborhoods they represent and to open up the process to potential new members, the commission is recommending that members appointed or reappointed on or after April 1, 2019, be limited to serving four consecutive two-year terms.

Community board members, who are unpaid, are appointed by the borough presidents with input from City Council members and currently serve two-year terms. There is no limit on the number of years they can serve.

A membership turnover would be healthy for community boards, according to commission members, who pointed out that several community boards around the city have members who have been there for 20 years or more.

And members who are term-limited out of a community board could reapply for membership after sitting one full term out of office.

Commissioner Chairperson Cesar Perales said the blue-ribbon panel thought long and hard before coming up with its proposals. The commission also held a series of public hearings around the five boroughs this summer to gauge public opinion.

“This commission set out to identify proposals designed to improve civic life in New York City and, through an extensive and thoughtful process. That is just what we have done. The proposals approved by the commission today will provide the voters with an opportunity to weigh in on changes that would impact several important aspects of civic life,” Perales said in a statement.

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a charter revision commission last year and gave the panel a mandate to develop at ways to increase public participation in city government.

Charter revision commissions are organized every few years to take a look at how city government functions.

If voters approve of the proposed changes, the changes are added to the City Charter.

The City Charter is akin to a constitution. It is the document that lays out the structure and function of New York City’s government.

The mayoral-appointed Charter Revision Commission is not to be confused with the Charter Revision Commission established by the City Council earlier this year. The council’s commission, which began its work in July, will develop recommendations to present to the public for a vote in November of 2019.

Community boards were established in 1963 and are comprised of up to 50 non-salaried members. Their primary role in city government is to serve as liaisons between local residents and city agencies. The boards advise city agencies on land use matters and other issues. Each board represents a geographic area usually comprised of two or three neighborhoods.

The mayor’s commission is also calling for changes in the community board application process to entice more people of diverse backgrounds to seek appointments. Under this proposal, borough presidents would be required to seek out residents of diverse backgrounds and encourage them to join their local boards. The borough presidents would also be required to post applications online.

The commission came up with other proposals, including a recommendation to create a Civic Engagement Commission and a series of proposed changes in how political campaigns are financed.

The mayor praised the work done by the commission.

“I applaud the Charter Revision Commission for listening to the needs of New Yorkers in developing these ballot proposals. These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections. There’s no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city,” de Blasio said in a statement.

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