Community boards of New York City

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Map of community districts in the City of New York

The community boards of the New York City government are the appointed advisory groups of the community districts of the five boroughs. There are currently 59 community districts: twelve in Manhattan, twelve in the Bronx, eighteen in Brooklyn, fourteen in Queens, and three in Staten Island.[1]

They advise on land use and zoning, participate in the city budget process, and address service delivery in their district.[2] Regarding land use they are only advisory and mostly serve as mobilizing institutions for communities opposed to specific projects.[3] The City Charter also allows boards to submit their own plans for the development, growth, and improvement of their communities.[4][5][6]

Community boards are each composed of up to 50 volunteer members appointed by the local borough president, half from nominations by City Council members representing the community district (i.e., whose council districts cover part of the community district).[1][7] Each community board is led by a district manager, with an office and staff, whose primary purpose is to coordinate the delivery of services to the community.[1][2] Non-board members may also join or work on board committees.[1] Each borough also has a borough board, composed of the borough president, council members from the borough, and the chairperson of each community board in the borough.[8]

History[edit]

The 1898 Charter of the City of Greater New York gave the Municipal Assembly the power and duty to number and name 22 districts of local improvements, which were at that time coterminous with the senatorial districts of the city but whose boundaries the Municipal Assembly had the power to modify.[9] Each district was under the purview of a Board of Local Improvements, also known as a "local board", which was composed of the district's Borough President and the members of the Municipal Assembly in the district, who all served without compensation.[10] The 1901 Charter, effective January 1, 1902, increased the number of districts to 25 and gave them their numbers and names.[11] These districts comprised various wards and senatorial districts.[11] The local boards remained composed of the Borough President and each alderman in the district, and they continued to serve in the boards without compensation.[12] In 1918 their number was reduced to 24 and they were thereafter based on aldermanic districts.[13]

The 1938 Charter imposed a City Council elected by boroughwide proportional representation; Local Improvement Boards thereafter comprised the Borough President and each member of the Council elected from the Borough, and numbered nine in Manhattan, eight in Brooklyn, four in the Bronx, two in Queens, and one in Staten Island.[14]

The 1963 revision of the New York City Charter extended the Borough of Manhattan's "Community Planning Councils" (est. 1951) to the outer boroughs as "Community Planning Boards", which are now known as "Community Boards". [15]

The 1975 revision of the New York City Charter set the number of Community Districts/Boards to 59, established the position of the district manager for the community districts, and created the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) (pronounced "euler") which gave the community boards the authority to review land use proposals such as zoning actions, and special permits.[15]

Responsibilities[edit]

Community boards act in an advisory capacity, wielding no official authority to make or enforce laws.[1][2]

Land use and zoning[edit]

Under the City Charter's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), after the Department of City Planning certifies as complete an application respecting the use, development, or improvement of real property, affected community boards (along with borough boards) may hold public hearings and submit recommendations for consideration to the City Planning Commission before its decision.[16][4] Such applications include those that involve city land or facilities, changes to zoning, and the use of public street and sidewalks.

A February 2016 meeting of Manhattan Community Board 12

The Board of Standards and Appeals generally has jurisdiction over special-use permits of a local nature (along with zoning variances), such as for gas stations, clubs, camps and public utility installations, and its approval process deviates from the ULURP by allowing community and borough boards to review and recommend applications; the City Planning Commission retains jurisdiction for projects that have greater impact or involve planning issues beyond the local neighborhood.[17] Projects that are "as-of-right" (i.e. the city has no discretion) are not subject to community review. The City Charter also allows community boards to submit their own plans for the development, growth, and improvement of their communities.[4][5] However, few community boards have taken advantage of this ability.[6]

Community boards serve as mobilizing institutions for communities opposed to specific projects.[2] They allow the community to articulate their opposition, and when successful, developers or the city are forced to modify projects or negotiate with the community, sometimes through the board.[2]

Service delivery[edit]

Each community board is led by a district manager, with an office and staff, whose primary purpose is to coordinate the delivery of services to the community.[1][2] Each community district also has a district service cabinet (DSC) with representatives of agencies that deliver local services.[2][18][19] In practice, boards serve in an outreach and complaint-handling capacity but have little substantive impact on tailoring service delivery.[2]

City budget[edit]

Community boards assess the needs of their own neighborhoods, meet with city agencies and make recommendations in the city's budget process to address them. Although boards have at times played a role in capital budgeting, their impact has been minimal.[6]

Structure[edit]

Borough Borough
President (B.P.)
Number of
Districts
Max. number of
B.P. appointees
Max. number of
all appointees
The Bronx Ruben Diaz Jr. 12 300 600
Brooklyn Eric Adams 18 450 900
Manhattan Gale Brewer 12 300 600
Queens Sharon Lee 14 350 700
Staten Island James Oddo 3 75 150

Each board is composed of up to 50 volunteer members, with half of the membership appointed by the local borough president each year for two-year terms.[1][7] One half of the appointees are chosen on the volition of the borough president, and half from nominations by City Council members representing the community district (i.e., whose council districts cover part of the community district).[1][7] Board members are selected from among active and involved people of each community and must reside, work, or have some other significant interest in the community.[1] In November 2018 voters overwhelmingly approved term limits of 4 consecutive 2-years stints. [20] After 2 years off the Board, members are eligible to be reappointed. Additionally, all City Council members representing the community district are non-voting, ex officio board members.[7] Meetings occur once a month and are open to the public.[1] Appointments to the board are usually made each spring. The minimum age to become a board member was lowered to 16 years old in 2014.[21][22]

The district office (district manager's office) of Brooklyn Community Board 9

Each community board is led by a district manager, with an office and staff, whose primary purpose is to coordinate the delivery of services to the community.[1][2] While the main responsibility of the district manager's office is to receive complaints from community residents, they also process permits for block parties and street fairs, organize tenants associations, and coordinate neighborhood cleanup programs.[1]

Each community board has committees that do most of the planning and work on the issues that are brought to action at board meetings.[1] Committees may be functional committees that deal with specific New York City Charter mandates (e.g., land use review and budget committees), or agency committees that relate to a particular agency (e.g. police and sanitation committees), or otherwise.[1] Non-board members may apply to join or work on board committees, which helps provide additional expertise and manpower.[1]

Each community district also has a district service cabinet (DSC) that coordinates city services and programs, considers interagency problems and impediments, and plans multi-agency projects, within the district.[18][19] Its members include the district manager, chairperson of the community board, representatives of the agencies that deliver local services to the community district, City Council members whose district includes any part of the community district, and a representative of the Department of City Planning.[2][19][23] DSC meetings are not subject to New York's Open Meetings Law and therefore need not be open to the public.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "About Community Boards". NYC Mayor's Community Affairs Unit. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Berg, Bruce (2007). New York City Politics: Governing Gotham. Rutgers University Press. p. 277.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. ^ Berg 2007, pp. 277-278.
  4. ^ a b c Angotti, Tom (August 10, 2010). Land Use and the New York City Charter (PDF). p. 4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. ^ a b New York City Charter § 197-a
  6. ^ a b c Berg 2007, p. 278.
  7. ^ a b c d New York City Charter § 2800(a)
  8. ^ New York City Charter § 85(a)
  9. ^ 1898 Charter, §390
  10. ^ 1898 Charter, §391
  11. ^ a b 1901 Charter, §425
  12. ^ 1901 Charter, §426
  13. ^ Laws of New York 1916, c. 540 §2
  14. ^ Governmental organization within the city of New York. New York: Columbia University. 1939. p. 16. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  15. ^ a b Forman, Seth. "Gotham Gazette -- Community Boards". www.gothamgazette.com. Gotham Gazette. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  16. ^ New York City Charter § 197-c
  17. ^ Nolon, John (2001). Well Grounded: Using Local Land Use Authority to Achieve Smart Growth. Environmental Law Institute. p. 93.
  18. ^ a b New York City Charter § 2705(b)
  19. ^ a b c d "The District Service Cabinet Introduction" (PDF). Bronx Community Board 4. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  20. ^ Plitt, Amy (November 7, 2018). "NYC's ballot measures all receive decisive approval". NY Curbed. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  21. ^ Kostro, Zak (January 12, 2018). "Diaz launches youth movement for community board members". The Riverdale Press. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  22. ^ Peltz, Jennifer (Nov 29, 2014). "New York teens will have new say in city's government". PBS NewsHour. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  23. ^ New York City Charter § 2705(a)

Bibliography[edit]