City Council Reso Calls for Community Board Term Limits and Transparency

A resolution brewing in the City Council recommends major reform for community boards.

Ben Kallos. Photo: NYC Council
Ben Kallos. Photo: NYC Council

Introduced by freshman City Council Member Ben Kallos, the reso calls for board members to serve a maximum of five consecutive two-year terms, and for unspecified term limits for board and committee chairs. It also recommends a transparent appointment process and highly publicized, multi-pronged recruitment efforts.

This would mark a dramatic shift from current practices, where board members can be appointed for life and borough presidents often refuse to discuss how they are chosen.

Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and served on Manhattan Community Board 8, based the resolution on his policy report, “Improving Community Boards in New York City.” The report recommends a standardized application process that would require reappointment applications and put an end to “automatic reappointment.” Employees of elected officials and executive committee members of political parties would be excluded from board membership.

The resolution calls for an “independent screening panel” for all boroughs, modeled on an existing Manhattan panel put in place by Scott Stringer. Stringer’s successor Gale Brewer enlisted community groups to screen some 600 applicants, including long-time board members, for her first round of appointments this year.

Though community board votes are technically advisory, DOT will generally not implement significant street redesigns without their endorsement. Community boards have a mixed record on street safety, and some board members appear to be reflexively resistant to life-saving street designs, regardless of public support or DOT data. An infusion of members whose priorities go beyond maintaining free on-street parking would be a refreshing change for many boards across the boroughs. More broadly, these reforms would ideally result in boards that more accurately reflect evolving demographics.

Of course, some are content with the status quo. “Our office will not be supporting this resolution,” said a spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “In fact, our office feels that this resolution is not necessary.”

“At this point, I’d like reform to be voluntary,” Kallos told the Queens Chronicle. At this writing the resolution is sponsored by an array of council newcomers and heavy-hitters: Brad Lander, Jimmy Vacca, Mark Levine, Danny Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose, Ritchie Torres, and Peter Koo.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Kallos Puts Out a Meek Report on Upper East Side Street Safety

|
The Upper East Side is full of dangerous intersections, and residents are clamoring for bus countdown clocks, benches, and bike racks, according to a two-part report released today by Council Member Ben Kallos [PDF 1, 2]. It’s not often a council member releases a report on livable streets, and Kallos should be commended for his […]

Do the 19th Precinct and Ben Kallos Know Drivers Cause Most Street Carnage?

|
Police activity on 79th & 1st–a blitz of enforcement on cyclists https://t.co/KSOdmtUHvp pic.twitter.com/1HO3zaGUwm — Our Town (@OurTownNYC) June 1, 2016 Per square mile, the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side has one of the higher traffic injury rates in the city. Though motorists cause the vast majority of traffic injuries and deaths, the 19th Precinct continues […]

StreetsPAC Endorses in Four More City Council Races

|
StreetsPAC announced general election endorsements in four City Council races today. StreetsPAC supports incumbent Jimmy Van Bramer for District 26 in Queens, which covers Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Maspeth. “Jimmy Van Bramer has long been a champion for safe and complete streets,” says a StreetsPAC press release. “He has stood with victims’ […]

Ben Kallos Won’t Talk About Why He Wants to Gut the Right of Way Law

|
On October 8, 2014, the driver of a Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation bus hit cyclist Anna Maria Moström while making a left turn. Moström was mortally injured. Two days later, a Coca-Cola truck driver hit an unidentified 86-year-old man in a crosswalk while turning from E. 96th Street onto Third Avenue. The senior died from his injuries. Both drivers […]