Councilman: Elected, powerful community boards would be a disaster

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He votes nay!

A Brooklyn activist group’s idea of turning the city’s 59 community boards into elected bodies with real power would just result in expensive elections for panels that would use their clout to veto any changes to their neighborhoods, says a former board member turned councilman.

“You can’t give community boards power because nothing would get done,” said former Community Board 18 member and current Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Mill Basin), slamming recent demands from a coalition called the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, which includes tenant groups and social justice organizations from Sunset Park, Flatbush, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, and Bushwick.

The outfit’s members rallied outside Borough Hall on Wednesday arguing the current boards — composed of volunteers who offer advisory-only recommendations to city Council members and agencies on issues such as rezonings, liquor licenses, and changes to landmarked buildings — leave neighborhoods with no real way to fight unwanted development.

Their case in point is the recent passage of Mayor DeBlasio’s sweeping changes to the city’s zoning rules, which are supposed to create more affordable housing in new buildings, but critics say will just encourage rampant development the city’s most vulnerable still can’t afford.

Council overwhelmingly passed his bills last month, despite the vast majority of community boards rejecting them.

“Because community boards lack this power, thousands of New York City residents now face a disastrous development plan, imposed on us against our will, that will bring even greater displacement to our communities,” the group said in a release.

The rabble-rousers are also demanding the city allow citizens to vote for the each member of the 50-person boards.

Currently, borough presidents and Council members nominate locals for the slots — and the beeps ultimately appoint them — but the activists claim members are afraid to criticize development proposals in case that puts them on the wrong side of the pols backing their seat.

“There are good, well-meaning people on the community board but they can’t really speak up because they’re afraid of not getting appointed again,” said Flatbush activist Imani Henry.

But electing 2,950 members across the city would just eat up taxpayer dollars, says Maisel — and few would turn out to vote anyway.

“Could you imagine the cost and expense of having elections for 50 people and nobody showing up?” he said.

A spokesman for Borough President Adams said the Beep doesn’t support elected community boards either, because it goes against the City Charter — although that is the very thing the activists are trying to change — and rejected the notion that members have hold their tongues to hold onto their positions.

“Community board members should never be afraid to speak their minds,” said Borough Hall communications guru Stefan Ringel.

Henry acknowledged his group hasn’t come up with an actual plan for holding such huge elections, but said it is still speaking to community members and politicians before presenting a proposal for how to execute its vision.

The organization says it has reached out to every Council member in the city with its idea, and its only Brooklyn respondees were Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick), who supports elected community boards, and Maisel.

Reynoso — who has previously described community boards as “political cesspools” that don’t reflect the demographics of their neighborhoods — did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

da editah says:
It would be interesting to examine Councilman Reynoso's record of appointments to Community Boards 1 and 4. Did he clean out the deadwood? Were any new appointees highly qualified?
April 4, 2016, 9:45 am
Pete from Never Poughkeepsie... says:
I'd be more interested in going over Maisel's books! Didn't this paper recently say in an article that he mysteriously has the biggest budget for operating his local office? Nice to hear that he's so concerned about the cost of an election, but totally uninterested in his community being able to have any voice...EXCEPT HIS!
April 4, 2016, 10:31 am
marsha rimler from brooklyn heights says:
Great Idea..Community Boards need to be elected instead of appointed if we are to have any kind of local democracy
April 4, 2016, 11:29 am
Shosh from Tokyo says:
We need elected boards so we can vote for good candidates like Ray Ploshanksy to replace the no-good board members currently serving.
April 4, 2016, Noon
I'm from from Flatbush says:
What a nonsensical idea! The community board system may need fixing but elections are not the way to go. Elections would just mean chaos. If you want to have some sway, get involved, go to meetings. Perhaps people need to think about not reelecting their council representatives election after election after election. Some (like Matthew Eugene, for example) are just useless. I would be delighted to see him gone and would support anybody who would go up against him.
April 4, 2016, 1:42 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
That the elected city council passed the elected mayor's rezoning plans and the unelected community boards opposed it makes me think that if we elected community boards, we might wind up with better people than we get through the appointments. Which are a cess pool, like Antonio Reynoso said.

Community boards aren't reflective of the communities they are supposed to represent. Elections might fix that. Or we could just get rid of them.
April 4, 2016, 2:02 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The structure of the community board (very local, unelected) makes them inherently reactionary. The elected offices, especially at the citywide level, give us much more liberal/progressive outcomes. So I can see why reactionaries like BAGN support empowering community boards. It's the same reason I oppose it.
April 4, 2016, 2:17 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Mike continues his drive to cover the borough with high-rises!
April 4, 2016, 2:25 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
People need a place to live.
April 4, 2016, 2:44 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
They need light and air too.
April 4, 2016, 4:02 pm
January says:
99% should drop to 80%, as 1% would then climb to 20%. And since it's getting crowded, it should be pretty obvious who needs to keep their junk in their pants.
April 4, 2016, 7:11 pm
February says:
85, 15 rather
April 4, 2016, 11:29 pm
JUSTINE SWARTZ from Brooklyn Heights says:
Community Board 2 sold off the Public owned 3 story Brooklyn Heights Library to a low-bid developer with ties to Mayor DiBlasio. Now a monstrous condominium of 36 floors will be built on the site. The library will be reestablished in a tiny community room in Our Lady Of Lebanon Church.
This is so wrong. Get these people off CB2 !!!
April 5, 2016, 12:17 am
Marilyn Berkon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Community Boards don't represent the community since the structure does not allow any valuable discussion with its members. Community Board 2, for example, in the district represented by Councilman Steve Levin, should have been aware of Steve Levin's statement on video tape that 95% of his constituents were against tearing down our solid, strong excellent Brooklyn Heights Library and giving us a new one less than half the size with a 36-story luxury condo rising above it. Yet they voted against the 95% and the 25,000 petition signatures. Even worse, Steve Levin voted against his own 95% and agreed to a last-minute backroom deal with the developer, a shock to the community and a violation of everything that made sense. So much for community boards that are unelected and councilmen who are elected. The city needs a cleaning.
April 5, 2016, 1:35 am
March says:
17:3 w a 3:1 additional contingency would be ideal for strength and duration?
April 5, 2016, 1:47 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
If you take the view that the only people who should have a voice in matters that affect the whole city and even region (like housing supply) or those who live next door to it, you wind up with reactionary approaches like Marilyn's.
April 5, 2016, 9:41 am
Meagan from Bushwick says:
The Board reps the immediate area. Planning, the city. The Council rep is a mediator of the two.
April 5, 2016, 10:44 am
Meagan from Bushwick says:
Trouble is the costly Environmental Reviews intended to guide the decision makers and public (which few people actually read) are paid for by whomever wants the change and risk not being entirely objective.
April 5, 2016, 11:31 am
Justine from Brooklyn Heights says:
Senior housing!
April 5, 2016, 11:40 am
Seriously, folks... from Usurped Neighborhood says:
Co-opted Community Board 2 and City Council Member Cumbo whose "win" of that seat was abetted by REBNY -are the very last folks who deign to listen to their 'community' ...Their patrons are the Business Improvement District BIDS...their priorities the network of self interest which more often than not have NOTHING to do with neighborhood preferences. They are disdainful of anyone who dares challenge them on inconvenient differing opinions...especially as it relates to cramping the style of developers.

We've inherited the leftovers from good ole' BP Marty in CB2...and they need to are no term limits.
April 5, 2016, 4:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
In all honesty, I doubt that electing community board members will even a make a difference. There are already a lot of corrupt politicians that are elected in both the past and present. Although some claim that appointed community board members are known to show favoritism to those who picked them, the same can be said for those being elected in catering to a special group. Just look at how some feel about electing certain state judges and where they are known to stand especially when one of the defendants happen to be from a group or individual known for getting them where they are.
April 6, 2016, 5:30 pm
JUSTINE SWARTZ from Brooklyn Heights says:
The comment of Senior Housing is NOT MINE !!!
I don't believe in tearing down Public Libraries and
erecting any sort of housing. There is enough vacant
land in Brooklyn for construction of affordable housing, unaffordable housing, senior housing,
youth hostels, etc. Cadman Plaza Library is the second most utilized library in Brooklyn. It is a
G-D damn shame CB2 sided with the Real Estate
Mogul David Kramer, instead of the thousands of children and adults that use this library.
April 7, 2016, 6:05 pm

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