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Community Board Reform

Starting Tonight, Learn How You Can Join Your Local Community Board

Tuesday's vote at Manhattan Community Board 7 is a reminder that the road to livable streets progress often goes through the local community board. With that in mind, Transportation Alternatives is kicking off a series of community board join-up meetings this week, where you can apply to serve on your local board.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio addresses Brooklyn Community Board 1 in 2011. Photo: Bill de Blasio

Community boards, while technically advisory in nature, often decide the fate of projects to make streets safer and more livable. “While they are only officially advisory, they do have tremendous impact on what policies end up being pursued,” TA organizer Tom DeVito said. This year's round of join-up meetings, with one in each borough over the next few weeks, are a continuation of events TA has hosted annually since 2008. ”It started because of the importance that community boards have in the process of determining how our streets look,” DeVito said.

DOT has long presented plans for major street redesigns to community boards, a practice that was codified into law in 2010. Community boards sometimes act to block or slow down livable streets projects. They can also be the venue -- as in Brownsville, Staten Island, and western Queens -- where communities develop their own plans and ask the city for improvements. The addition of one or two new faces can spell the difference between a community board that says "no" to change, and one that says "yes."

The first join-up meeting is happening in Manhattan this evening, and an event in Brooklyn is also scheduled for tonight. Borough president-elect Gale Brewer is scheduled to attend the Manhattan session, and TA is awaiting final confirmation from several Manhattan council members. A panel of current community board members will talk about their experience, and a notary will be on hand so attendees can submit their community board applications on the spot.

Community board members are appointed by borough presidents, and many are nominated for consideration by council members. In Manhattan, the community board application review process has already been launched by Borough President Scott Stringer and will be completed by Brewer, with terms beginning in April 2014.

TA says it’s reached out to current and elected borough presidents in all five boroughs, inviting them to the local join-ups. Next week, TA is hosting a meet-up in Queens on Tuesday and the Bronx on Wednesday. A Staten Island event is planned for December 19.

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