Brooklyn’s community boards saw unprecedented engagement as the pandemic forced the civic panels utilize online video conferencing platforms, allowing locals to tune in from the comfort of their homes — but now, Brooklynites have the chance to go one step further and apply to serve the volunteer community groups.
Membership applications for the borough’s 18 geography-based community boards are open until Feb. 12, and local elected officials are encouraging first-timers to apply.
“Now more than ever, we want to urge all Brooklynites who are able to apply for their community boards and get involved to help our borough recover from the devastation of COVID-19,” said Borough President Eric Adams in a statement.
Community boards are a hyperlocal level of democracy, wherein volunteer members weigh in on proposed land-use projects in their districts, make recommendations for businesses seeking liquor licenses, and help locals navigate the complex maze of municipal government to address quality-of-life issues.
Applicants are selected in part by the borough president and the relevant City Council member. To be appointed to a board, prospective members must reside in New York City, and either live, work, or have some relevant interest in the specific board they wish to serve on.
As the pandemic has forced them into the virtual realm, the panels have seen a jump in participation, spurred by the convenience of logging into an online WebEx meeting from home, rather than schlepping off to a community gathering space for an hours-long meeting on a weeknight.
“We saw community board meetings go from what would normally be, maybe, 100 people in a room, to consistently a couple-hundred people coming to full board meetings,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC, which supported a number of city community boards in their transition online. “There were a few contentious community board meetings where there were over 1,000 people in attendance.”
And, in an effort to give more youth a voice in local affairs, Brooklyn’s board standards have recently been expanded to include applicants as young as 16.
Community board applications can be found here.