Community push back

We began this blog series as a way to explain the main differences between Bloomberg and de Blasio’s housing plans and to highlight various ways these plans could have a positive influence on the city and our communities.

This post continues the conversation about how local community boards work and identifying the influences they do and do not have.

59 local Community Boards throughout New York City exist, of which 18 are in Brooklyn. Each consists of up to 50 non-salaried members appointed by the boroughs’ presidents, half of whom are nominated by their districts’ City Council members.

Each community board member must work, live or have other “significant interest in the community”.

Aside from the half who are appointed by the borough’s president, the committees are comprised of local residents who want to be involved and help.

For example, Community Board #5 serves East New York, Cypress Hills, Highland Park, New Lots, City Line, Starrett City, and Ridgewood. Like all other community boards, they have an ADVISORY role which deals with land use and zoning matters, the city budget, municipal service delivery, and many other matters relating to the welfare of their community.

It’s important to note a great deal of discussion happens at board meetings, but the boards themselves to not have the authority to vote on land use, even though plans must come before the board for review. Voting is very much in the hands of the city council and the city planning commission.

In addition, the board regularly conducts public hearings on the city's budget and other major issues in order to give the people of the community the opportunity to express their opinions.

Although it may feel like a waste of an evening, there are many reasons to attend a Community Board meeting. In Harlem, for example, community members attended a meeting and shared their opposition as well as community-generated proposals to preserve rent-stabilized housing.

This group worked diligently on a broad community analysis of the proposed rezoning since early 2015 and presented factual data which left a strong and respected impression at the board meeting.

Council members, as well as other officials from local organizations, frequently attend meetings to address the board. If you have a concern about your local zoning and want to speak with someone who can provide answers, they can usually be found at these meetings.

One of the greatest opportunities for political involvement comes during participatory budgeting, which allows all residents to help determine how funds will be distributed in their neighborhoods through a vote. You can also get an idea of what’s happening in the coming months, so you and your community can plan accordingly.

Board meetings are held each month, with the exception of July and August. Board meetings are open to the public and a portion of each meeting is reserved for the board to hear from community citizens.

I strongly suggest attending these meetings in your area! While you may not feel like much can be done to stop large developments from happening, this is a great place to meet like-minded neighbors who feel similarly, to unite to make your voice heard, or to simply start the conversation with your city council member to organize a movement.

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