About Community Boards

What are community boards?

  1. Community Boards are the local representative bodies for the 50 community districts in NYC; there are 12 in Manhattan. They were established by the City Charter to address items of concern to the community and consider and communicate the needs of the district.

  2. Membership -- each CB has 50 unsalaried members appointed by the Borough President with half nominated by the local City Council Members. Board members are generally appointed to a 2 year staggered term, so half of the members appointments expire each year. Board members are selected from among active, involved members of each community. Every effort is made to ensure that all segments of the community are represented adequately. All members must work and/or live, or have a significant interest in the area.

  3. Commitment -- Each CB member is usually expected to serve on a minimum of two committees, usually broken down by issue area and / or neighborhood, and attend the monthly board meeting where all the committees make a report to the full board membership. This is a big time commitment and it is extremely important to us that you withdraw you application if you can't meet this commitment. Good attendance is a priority for the Borough President and poor attendance may be cause for removal.

What is the Community Board's Role?

  1. Advisory body that considers the needs of the community District. The community boards consult and advise the Borough President, Mayor. Council Members - and City agencies on the city's budget, land-use and service delivery.

  2. District Manager/CB Staff. Each CB has a paid staff headed by a District Manager, whose primary responsibility is the coordination of service delivery at the local level, in addition to resolving complaints and addressing issues of concern to the community.

  3. There are three specific areas mentioned in the City Charter in which Community Boards are expected to be involved:

    • Improving the delivery of City services.
    • Planning and reviewing land use in the community.
    • Making recommendations on the City's budget.

    In addition, the Charter states that Community Boards may become involved in any issue "affecting the welfare of the residents of their districts".

How Community Boards Work

  1. Meetings

    Community Boards usually meet once a month. Meetings are open to the public. During these meetings, Board members discuss issues affecting their district and vote on how they would like to see these issues addressed. Some meetings reserve a block of time for any non-members who wish to speak. All Boards conduct public hearings on major issues.

  2. Committees

    If you take a look at the pages for the different Community Boards, you will notice that each is slightly different from all of the others. You might also notice that some Boards seem to address a greater number of issues than other Boards. This is because every Board is given the freedom to set up its own committees, made up of both members and non-members, to deal with whatever issues they see as warranting more in-depth involvement by the Board. Each committee usually gives a report at the monthly meeting on developments in its domain.

  3. The District Manager and the District Service Cabinet

    Each Community Board hires a District Manager. The District Manager hires his or her own staff. The District Manager and his or her office perform many different functions in the community, the primary one being the resolution of complaints by community residents. Every District Manager's office is a little bit different as far as the services they provide; in a lot of cases a service is provided after members of the community have requested that it be provided. For instance, a district such as District #1, which has a sizable portion of the population receiving government assistance, might have someone on staff who helps people to fill out applications for food stamps, Medicaid, etc., while a district such as District #6, which contains a lot of senior citizens, might provide assistance in filling out Rent Increase Exemption Forms and free transportation to and from Board meetings.

    The District Manager chairs the District Service Cabinet. The Cabinet is made up of the district supervisors of City agencies, which are now for the most part coterminous with the boundaries of community boards. The District Service Cabinet gets together to discuss service delivery in the community. Since a representative of every City agency is present at these meetings, solutions to any problems can be expedited.

  4. The Borough Board and the Borough Service Cabinet

    Each of the five boroughs has a Borough Board which is made up of all the Community Board chairs and City Council members and headed by the Borough President. They meet to address issues which affect the borough as a whole.

    Each borough also has a Borough Service Cabinet which is composed of all the borough chiefs of City agencies and is headed by the Borough President. The Borough Service Cabinet serves the same purpose as the District Service Cabinets, but on a borough-wide level.

How Can I Get Involved With My Community Board?

Each Community Board has a Web page which gives the address and phone number of its office and a map of the area it covers. Some Boards have E-mail addresses. Meeting days and times are also given here. For by-laws and schedules of Board and committee meetings call the Board office and ask to have these mailed to you.

If you have a specific area of interest, e.g. youth or senior citizens, contact that committee chairperson. You can participate in a committee even if you are not a Board member.

To apply for Community Board membership, call the Borough President's Office or a City Council member and ask to have an application sent to you. New members are appointed every year.

How They Came Into Being

What would eventually evolve into a system of Community Boards was the brainchild of Robert Wagner, Manhattan Borough President, in 1951. He designated twelve districts within Manhattan and established, for each, a Community Planning Council composed of fifteen to twenty members. The function of these Councils was to advise the Borough President on matters related to planning and the budget.

In 1963, the City Charter was adopted. The Charter called for the establishment of Community Planning Boards, as they were referred to, in all five boroughs of New York City. Eventually the term "Community Planning Board" was shortened to simply "Community Board". The role of the boards was still that of advisory boards to the Borough Presidents.

In the early 1970's, Mayor John Lindsay created additional entities in some districts whose responsibility it was to oversee the provision of City services. Each "Little City Hall" as they were called, was headed by a District Manager, a person appointed by the mayor. Each District Manager chaired a Service Cabinet made up of officers of various City agencies. Again, this system was only in place in a minority of New York City districts.

Citywide embodiment of Lindsay's ideas, however, was not long in coming. The 1975 City Charter gave Community Boards three distinct responsibilities: monitoring City service delivery; planning and reviewing land use, including zoning regulations; and making recommendations for each year's budget.

Today's Community Board consists of up to 50 unpaid members who are residents or businesspeople of the district. The members are appointed by the Borough President who bases her decisions, in part, on nominations by City Council members.

Open Government

The Open Meetings Law (OML) requires public bodies to maintain minutes that include all "matters formally voted upon by the public body and the vote thereon," (POL Sec. 106), and the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requires public agencies to "maintain a record of the final vote of each member in every agency proceeding in which the member votes" (POL Sec. 87-3-a). Therefore, no Community Board vote, including the election of officers may be conducted by secret ballot. Such elections may be conducted using signed paper ballots, by roll call, or by any other means by which each Board member's vote is recorded and can be made public. Each Board must create a record listing each member's vote and make the record available to the public by its inclusion in the minutes of the meeting.

Our thanks to hellskitchen.net for this explanation.

Gov't & Politics | Home