Wiki Wednesday: Community Boards
This week’s featured StreetsWiki article is a detailed history of New York City community boards, by Lily Bernheimer. Evolving from then-Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner’s "Community Planning Councils" of the 1950s, the citywide system as we know it was established in 1975.
Ideally, community boards act to "foster community-based planning," but the very nature of the appointment process has often made them susceptible to top-down interference — a reality that has more than once had an impact on the livable streets movement.
Board members are intended to convey community interests to their
borough president (often in opposition to business or development), and
yet are entirely beholden to him or her for their appointment. C.
Virginia Fields served as Manhattan Borough President during her 2005
campaign for Mayor and was accused of "using her community board
appointments as a kind of political club, selecting people who
supported her in her race and firing those who did not." Still worse, in
May of 2007 Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz "purged" Community Board 6 of nine members who had voted against the Atlantic Yards development
he supports. After an even more dramatic purge of Bronx CB6
surrounding the Yankees Stadium proposal, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion
was quoted to have said, "My very clear expectation is that these
appointees are there to carry out a vision for the borough president
and the leadership of this borough, and that’s simply what I expect."
That said, as the entry notes, community boards are not without their success stories, even though they are limited to an advisory role. And if nascent efforts to reform the system take hold, the future may yield more benefits than setbacks.
In the meantime, this entry could benefit from a section on community boards and livable streets. There’s certainly plenty of material. If you’re game, the first step is setting up a Livable Streets account.