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If you live or work in the South Bronx, chances are you’re eligible to serve on a community board. Applications are now open, and serving on a board is a great way to engage with your neighbors and give input into decisions that directly affect you.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY BOARD?
New York City’s 59 community boards – 12 of which are in the Bronx – provide a direct connection between residents and city government.
Members are appointed to staggered two-year terms, meaning half the board is up for replacement or reappointment each year.
Many boards currently have vacancies (fewer than the maximum 50 members), and elected officials are eager to fill as many spots as possible with dedicated and enthusiastic new members.
Members are required to attend full board meetings and serve on various committees, which can include:
- Economic Development/Land Use/Housing
- Education and Youth
- Health and Human Services
- Municipal Services
Each community board is run by a district manager (salaried city employee) and a chairperson (volunteer), and all members are volunteers.
All meetings are open to the public and operate under a formal style called Robert’s Rules of Order. Meetings can be long, so a formal structure helps keep the agenda moving.
WHAT ISSUES DO THE BOARDS DEAL WITH?
Each board is different, but they often give direct input on issues such as:
- New property development or redevelopment
- Liquor license renewals
- Street events
- Public safety
- How city money is spent
- Community partnerships
- City services
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?
Applicants must either live or work in the community board area to which they are applying OR have a “professional or other significant interest with that board’s district.”
A professional/significant interest is defined as being a city employee in the district, being a board member of an organization based in the district, or being a student attending school in the district.
Boards seek a diverse group of people from various races, genders, ages, areas of expertise, etc. Community board members can be as young as age 16, and younger members are especially encouraged to apply. (In the world of community boards, under 40 counts as young).
New this year, the application is available online – there is no longer a need to write by hand or have an application notarized. The application involves a couple essay questions, demographic information, resume or bio, ID, and proof of address.
WHAT’S THE TIME COMMITMENT?
Serving on a community board is a significant commitment. Members are required to attend trainings, serve on committees (each meets once per month), and attend full board meetings (also once a month – these can last a few hours).
Attendance is treated seriously, as the board cannot vote on anything without a quorum of at least 50 percent of members present. Good attendance is critical to each board’s ability to function.
WHY SHOULD I BOTHER?
Serving on a board may not be glamorous, but as a member, you can make an impact in your community and have a say in decisions that affect you. If you’ve ever been confused or frustrated by changes in your neighborhood, serving on a board can be a great way to become more informed and take action.
Boards have only advisory power, but they can be highly influential in highlighting local issues that need attention and discussing possible solutions. Elected officials attend meetings (or send reps on their behalf), and they often seek out opinions from their boards.
WHEN IS THE DEADLINE?
Each borough has its own application deadline. The deadline for the Bronx is Friday, March 3.