Volume 22, Number 36 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 15 - 21, 2010
Get on board with the community
Over the past few years, the citys community boards have begun exhibiting more muscle in their roles as our most dedicated local ombudsmen.
Board members act as the first responders to just about any action occurring in our neighborhoods, from land use and liquor licenses to transportation, landmark designation, schools, sanitation, street fairs and open space.
Although usually the boards act only as advisory bodies, the citys 3,000-or-so volunteer members are much more than watchdogs. In fact, they have proven to be some of the citys most influential policy-makers and -breakers.
Community Board 1 played a key role in getting most of Lower Manhattans local schools built, successfully pushed for some adjustments to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporations business assistance program and often has an influential voice in changing park design plans.
City and state elected officials, many of whom got their start on community boards, as well as big developers regularly attend meetings and answer board members questions. Its not unusual to see Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the states most powerful leaders, at C.B. 1. The Port Authority, owner of the World Trade Center, gives regular updates to the board.
On issues of nightlife, the board acts as the first line of defense for the hundreds of operators attempting to open restaurants, bars and clubs across the city. Its only appropriate that the community board get first crack at these establishments, since board members have to share their streets with these new tenants. More and more, the State Liquor Authority is accepting community board conditions, such as requiring a bar to close earlier, before granting liquor licenses. Its a testament to the clout of boards that this statewide agency took heed and theyre not the only ones.
We say all this because joining your local community board, whether you live in the district or just do business there, represents the single greatest way to involve yourself in the shaping of our communities.
Sure, membership includes an added time commitment that many New Yorkers simply dont have. But the rewards are worth the hours spent reviewing projects and proposals that oftentimes arrive to the board first before anywhere else. Dont like that rowdy new bar down the street from your apartment? The community board can help. Concerned about dangerous traffic conditions at an intersection near your childrens school? The board can request additional safety measures, such as streetlights and stop signs. Need a forum to discuss crime in your area? The board provides that in conjunction with actual members of the N.Y.P.D. In New Yorks cacophony of voices, having yours heard is the hardest part.
Any prospective board members who want join this year need to act fast, as applications must be postmarked to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer this Fri., Jan. 15. Applicants can contact his office at 212-669-8300 if they need an extension, but thats no reason to end up on the bottom of the pile and miss your chance to make a difference.
If youre interested, review and complete the online form (http://www.libertycontrol.net/uploads/mbp/CommunityBoardApplication.pdf) and either send it in or drop it off at Stringers office in Lower Manhattan: 1 Centre St., 19th floor, New York, NY 10007.
We have a feeling you wont regret it.
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