Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Borough President Scott Stringer Announces 2007 Community Board Appointments

Borough President Scott Stringer Announces 2007

Community Board Appointments

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer recently
made public the names of the 2007 appointees to Manhattan’s 12
Community Boards completing his second year of a revamped
recruitment and appointment process that has resulted in
greater community empowerment throughout the borough.

For complete details and a list of appointees please click here

Borough President Scott Stringer Announces 2007
Community Board Appointments

Second Year of Stringer’s Revamped Recruitment and Appointment Process Results in More than 300 New Applicants, No Unfilled Vacancies
33% of Appointees are New Community Board Members

(March 26, 2007) New York, NY - Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today made public the names of the 2007 appointees to Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards completing his second year of a revamped recruitment and appointment process that has resulted in greater community empowerment throughout the borough. The appointments were again guided by Stringer’s newly implemented set of reforms aimed at depoliticizing the appointment process and making the boards more reflective of the constituencies they serve.

Stringer released the following data pertaining to the 2007 appointment and recruitment process:

Total number of applications: 571
Total number of new applicants: 308
Total number of interviews conducted by the MBPO: 483
Percentage of applicants that received interviews: 85
Total number of new appointees: 101
Total number of re-appointees: 263
Percentage of appointees that are new board members: 33%

In announcing the appointments Borough President Stringer said, “I am proud to report that the second year of our newly instituted recruitment and appointment process has again resulted in an outstanding group of appointees. The quality and total number of this year’s pool of applicants was exceptional. We are witnessing a level of interest and excitement in this unique form of local government that has never before been seen in Manhattan. The result of this excitement is bearing fruit in community based victories across this borough.”

Under the City Charter, the Borough President is charged with appointing all 600 members of Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards; half upon the recommendation of City Council Members. Each year half of the current board membership must apply for reappointment and go through Stringer’s new screening process.

In 2006, Borough President Stringer created an independent screening panel – the Community Board Reform Committee – whose job was to overhaul the appointment process, end ad hoc removals and ultimately review and recommend Community Board applicants to the Borough President. Since their inception, the panel has worked to design a new, more thorough application for potential board members in order to gain a better understanding of applicants to balance the boards with a variety of backgrounds and interests.

Borough President Stringer’s Community Board Reform Committee is comprised of leaders from good government and community groups including: The New York League of Conservation Voters, the Partnership for NYC, the League of Women Voters, the Municipal Art Society, NYPIRG, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Union, the Women’s City Club of New York, the Hispanic Federation, West Harlem Environmental Action, the Regional Planning Association, the NAACP, LGBT Community Center, and the Urban League.

Over the last year Borough President Stringer’s office has taken on an aggressive outreach program that included more than 50 power-point presentations to community groups, religious institutions, businesses and other important groups in the hopes of interesting a cross section of Manhattanites to join their Community Boards. Borough President Stringer credited that outreach effort with the high number of new applicants.

“This process would not have been able to continue growing and succeeding without the work and commitment of Manhattan’s City Council delegation,” Borough President Stringer said. “They have all been active partners in this process and I commend them for their commitment to strengthening this vital form of government.”

Click here for a list of the 2007 Appointees to Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards.

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Community Board Reform

There are twelve Community Boards in the borough of Manhattan—fifty-nine across all of New York City—charged with representing community interests on crucial issues of development and planning, land use, zoning and service delivery. Members of these boards are pivotal designers of their communities, and work to both enhance and preserve the character of the city’s many unique neighborhoods. Each board is equipped with 50 members, a budget, a district manager and staff to be the independent and representative voice of its community.

The Community Board system is also one of the Borough President’s most significant areas of responsibility. All Community Board appointments are made by the Borough President—half of them unilaterally, and half upon recommendation by City Council members. When these boards assess the needs of their communities, the Borough President, in turn, voices those needs to the City and State at large. The power of these boards has, in the past, been underestimated. With the mindset of reform, however, Manhattan’s Community Boards can bring about a new understanding of government by the people and for the people.
At their best, Community Boards are the empowered forces of their neighborhoods, and at his best, the Borough President is their steadfast collaborator. To access this potential, responsibility lies with the Borough President himself to communicate and mobilize a vision of Manhattan’s Community Boards. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is already taking steps towards reforming and empowering Community Boards, steps that will benefit all New Yorkers.

For more information about Community Board Reform, please consult the following:

Community Board Training Institute

The Manhattan Borough President's Community Board Training Institute has held several sessions to inform board members about essential matters like the City Budget process, Land Use procedures, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest, and Parliamentary Procedure. Training guides are accessible below:

Community Boards

How many Community Boards are there?

There are 59 Community Boards throughout the city, with 12 in the borough of Manhattan.

What do Community Boards do?

The City Charter provides Community Boards with specific powers and responsibilities in several areas:

Long-term community planning. Section 197-A of the City Charter authorizes Community Boards to prepare long-term plans for community development. Once the City Planning Commission approves a 197-A plan, it serves as the policy guide for any development or zoning actions taken by the city.

Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Community Boards must be consulted on land use issues, which include the development of municipal facilities, residential buildings, parks and waterfront development. All applications for a change in zoning must first come for review before the Board, which makes a recommendation to the Borough President, who, in turn, makes a recommendation to the City Planning Commission.

Applications for liquor licenses and sidewalk cafes. Bars and restaurants are required to come before Community Boards for advisory rulings on liquor license applications, which are then taken into account for a final determination by the State Liquor Authority. Similarly, applications for sidewalk cafes are presented to Community Boards, which make recommendations on approval to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Street fairs and street closings. Community Boards make a non-binding recommendation on applications for street fairs and street closings to the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit.
Community needs in the city budget. The Charter tasks the Community Boards with assessing neighborhood needs, meeting with city agencies and making budget requests to address these local issues. Each Board prepares an annual “District Needs” statement, based on the requests and recommendations of individual Board members and committees.

How many members are on each board?

The twelve Boards in Manhattan consist of up to 50 members—600 borough-wide. All members must have a residential, business, proffesional or other significant interest the community.

How does one become a member?

All Community Board appointments are made by the Borough President—half unilaterally and half on the recommendation of members of the City Council. Borough President Stringer and his staff have revamped the Community Board application and are accepting post-marked applications (required of new applicants and re-appointees alike) until January 31, 2007. Borough President Stringer and his staff have also assembled an independent Community Board Reform Committee that will screen applications, conduct interviews and recommend appointees to the Borough President. By April 1, 2007, the Borough President will announce his appointments for vacant seats on the borough’s Community Boards.

How often do boards meet?

Boards meet once each month. At these meetings, members address items of concern to the community. Board meetings are open to the public, and a portion of each meeting is reserved for the Board to hear from members of the public. Boards regularly conduct public hearings on the City's budget, on land use matters, and other major issues.

How do I find my Community Board?

The official web sites of the various community boards are independent entities, not affiliated with the Manhattan Borough President’s Office or NYC.gov, the Official NYC Web site.


Community Board Reform

My greatest power to leverage change in Manhattan comes from the borough itself: most specifically from the twelve Community Boards that represent it. Community Boards are the most local unit of government. Last year, the city spent more than $2.6 million on the operations of Manhattan’s Community Boards. Community Boards are the conscience and voice of our neighborhoods.

The full potential of Community Boards has not yet been realized. Notwithstanding their achievements, these boards have been historically undermined by inefficiencies and a lack of accountability and diversity. A recent examination of Manhattan Community Board operations found that:

The Community Board appointment process is overly politicized and unsystematic;

Community Board funds are distributed inequitably and without review;

Boards operate with ongoing vacancies;

Undisclosed lobbying is commonplace;

Conflicts of interest laws have not been enforced, but rather ignored;
Boards operate without any external requirement of assessment and evaluation.
Why does this matter?

This matters because this is our city, and because in suboptimal conditions we achieve suboptimal results. Efficient and accountable Community Boards would empower Manhattan’s neighborhoods in unprecedented ways, and allow them to cultivate the futures they seek.

My office is taking the initiative to reform and empower Manhattan’s Community Boards. This task is not required of the Borough President, yet it is the bold responsibility my staff and I have assumed in our desire to make Manhattan a place of promise for all its residents.

Some of these reforms are immediate; others will require long-term planning and oversight. Ultimately, however, these reforms will restore each Board to its rightful place on the frontlines of community planning and advocacy. Here are the steps towards reform we are taking:

Revamping Recruitment Efforts to Encourage Community Board Member Applications

To ensure that Board members embody the diversity and expertise necessary to fight for all local residents’ needs, we are strengthening the recruitment and application process. Specialized community liaisons from my office are meeting with a range of groups and community-based organizations throughout the borough to raise awareness of our revitalized Community Boards.
We are handing out applications to everyone interested in becoming a board member.

Establishing an Independent Screening Panel for Board Appointment and Ending ad hoc Removals

My staff and I have formed a Community Board Reform Committee that will function as an independent screening panel for all board applicants. This Committee is comprised of Community-Based Organizations, and is establishing a standard set of criteria by which board applicants will be assessed. Furthermore, just as members are now systematically appointed, they will no longer be removed on an ad hoc basis. In my administration, Community Board Members will be appointed and serve according to merit.
The Community-Based Organizations represented on my screening panel are: The New York League of Conservation Voters, Partnership for NYC, the League of Women Voters, the Municipal Art Society, NYPIRG, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizen’s Union, the Women’s City Club of NY, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, West Harlem Environmental Action, Regional Plan Association, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center and the Urban League.

Developing a More Thorough Application Process to Become a Community Board Member

This year, my staff and I hope to have at least 3 applications for every 1 open spot. The process is now more thorough than ever before. We’ve drafted a new application that provides us comprehensive information on applicant backgrounds. This new application will provide the Community Board Reform Committee the means to assemble the most representative and diverse board memberships possible. Each applicant, including those seeking re-appointment, must submit an application to my office, postmarked no later than January 31, 2007.

Incorporating Feedback from the Borough President’s Community Board Questionnaires

Neighborhoods know best. That’s why, immediately following my election, I solicited questionnaires from all of the Community Board Members, District Managers and Chairs to get their feedback on how Community Boards should be reformed. The results gave us key insights into the priorities, satisfactions and dissatisfactions of Manhattan’s Community Boards. We will soon be posting the questionnaire analysis on this website.

Assigning Urban Planners to Support Each Community Board

Given that much of the work conducted by Community Boards revolves around issues of Land Use and planning, we have set in motion a provision of resources to each Community Board with urban planning expertise. My office is establishing an “Urban Fellowship” program with New York City universities so that graduate students in metropolitan studies and urban planning programs can assist the professional, in-house urban planners and gain valuable hands-on experience. Ultimately, every board should have a paid professional urban planner on staff that can support the design of 197-A plans and analysis of land use proposals for long-term community development. This assistance will yield a development plan representative of the community’s needs that can be submitted for approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. I am beginning discussions with the Mayor and City Council to secure additional funding to support such full-time planning assistance.

Introducing Legislation to Make Conflicts of Interest Laws Enforceable

Without records of financial interest, the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) is forced to rely on the honor system, greatly compromising their ability to regulate potentially harmful conflicts of interest on Community Boards. Our office is working to draft legislation on the state level to allow the COIB to accept a shortened financial disclosure form, which Community Board Chairs can fill out to make the conflicts of interest law enforceable. In the interim, we have updated the Community Board application to include questions regarding conflicts of interest. And as a further measure to promote transparency, members of the public may request to review these applications according to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Setting Board Budgets to Reflect Their Constituencies

New York City allocates over $12 million dollars a year to the entirety of Community Board budgets. While one Community Board will vary from another in the size and needs of the members of its district, money has not, in the past, been distributed proportionately. Every Community Board has the right, and the mandate, to optimize its effectiveness. For this reason, I am drafting proposals and consulting with the Office of the Mayor, the City Council and my fellow Borough Presidents to provide funding correspondent to the population served by each Community Board.

Providing Ongoing Training and Support for Community Board Members and their Staffs

Following the appointment of Community Board Members, my office will serve as a resource and a guide for the operations of every board. We will work with each Community Board according to its specific needs, and collaborate with them to develop ongoing training services for board staff members on issues including budgeting, land use procedures, conflicts of interest and ethics.

Strengthening Accountability of Community Board Operations

By coordinating with each Community Board office, we will set minimum district requirements as it relates to service delivery and require annual reports addressing board finances, operations and progress. This devoted attention to Manhattan’s Community Boards is unprecedented. And the mobilization, communication and empowerment that will result will be the means by which the promise of New York will be delivered.

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