Volume 22, Number 03 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 29 - June 4, 2009

Community board faces budget cuts

The mayor has proposed a 17 percent cut to Community Board 1’s budget that would mean the elimination of one of the board’s four staff positions.

The cut of about $35,000 out of the board’s budget of just over $200,000 would force the board to dismiss Michael Levine, director of land use and planning. Levine, who previously worked for the Dept. of City Planning, started working part-time for C.B. 1 in 2006.

But C.B. 1 is not about to let Levine go without a fight. The board wants to use its privately raised money, rather than city funds, to pay for Levine’s position. Because of conflict-of-interest rules, the board would have to issue a request for proposals to solicit candidates for the position, who would each list their qualifications and name their fee.

“We would want Michael to submit a proposal,” said Noah Pfefferblit, C.B. 1’s district manager. “We think he’s very qualified.”

Many board members said they want Levine to remain in place. Bruce Ehrmann, a board member, livened the somber discussion by suggesting that the R.F.P. be targeted directly toward Levine, so few other people are eligible to apply. Paul Hovitz, another board member, added that perhaps only candidates with the initials “M.L.” should be allowed.

The board is starting the request for proposals process now, though the members hope the city will restore the community board money in its final budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson told C.B. 1 Tuesday night that restoring funding to community boards is one of the Council’s top priorities. Gerson said it is “no secret” that the mayor proposed cutting community board budgets because he wants to undermine the boards.

To fund Levine’s position, the board will draw on its reserve fund of nearly $170,000, which was privately raised. The board also makes money from street fairs each year, and this year expects to take in about $25,000, Pfefferblit said.

In the past, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer had opposed the use of privately raised funds to support board staff positions. Stringer’s office did not comment on the community board’s proposal.

Stringer is holding a rally to protest the community board cuts on June 10.

— Julie Shapiro




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