The city’s 59 Community Boards, including 14 in Queens, dodged a bullet recently, when the City Council voted to restore a $295,000 cut in funding for the balance of this year’s budget.
The Council voted to restore the funds at their stated meeting on Wednesday, April 22, according to Councilmember Eric Ulrich, a former Community Board member.
“I promised the people in my district that I’d fight to preserve their voice through the Community Boards; I plan to do it again for next year’s budget,” he told The Queens Courier.
“We are grateful that the City Council saw the importance of restoring our budget for the remainder of this fiscal year,” said Jonathan Gaska, District Manager for Community Board 14 “We also hope they see the wisdom in restoring our budget for the new fiscal year to come,” he added.
“As a former Community Board member, I know firsthand the important role that Community Boards play in improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” Ulrich said.
Community Boards are mandated by the City Charter. They advise the borough and city government on matters of land use and zoning, make capital and expense budget recommendations, and otherwise act as an interface between local residents and the city.
Each board consists of up to 50 members who are appointed to two-year terms by the Borough President; half are nominated by City Councilmembers whose district is part of the Community District the board represents. They have to live, work or have a significant tie to the district they represent. They are unpaid; they are considered public servants and city officials.
Each Community Board office is staffed by a District Manager, who is a paid city employee, and a paid staff. The offices are rented and have utility, printing, postage and other expenses.
“To fulfill our mandate and work together with the Council and other city agencies to provide service to New York City’s people,” said Elizabeth Braton, chair of Community Board 10, “[They] must have the ability to maintain fully-functioning offices with adequate staff.”
Andrea Crawford, Chair of Community Board 9, pointed out that the boards “are not only an essential resource to the community they serve, but are an invaluable tool in constituent services for elected officials.”
She described their offices “as a clearing house for the numerous programs available to the citizens of our communities,” saying, “ Without an adequate budget, the ability to get out to the community what is available from their government, whether it be social services or local sponsored events, would be lost.”
“These cuts would have had devastating effects on the ability of Community Boards to function properly,” Ulrich said, adding, “I was proud to join the fight to save our Community Boards.”