By Jonathan Berk
At the end of Monday’s Charter Revision Commission public hearing at Hostos Community College in The Bronx, commission chair Matthew Goldstein thanked the public for their “robust” participation over the almost-three-hour session. Indeed, the hearing was full of voices, with 37 speakers from The Bronx’s citizenry, electorate, and civic institutions, saying their part over the course of the evening. But if the chair also was referring to the session’s attendance—which we estimated at no more than 120 people—then “robust” was little more than an optical illusion.
The first of the commission’s public hearings, on April 6 at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, received media attention for its low public turnout. Estimates for that session ranged from 60 to 140 people, with several in between. Assuming we can safely split the difference there to estimate the Manhattan crowd at 100 people, then it wasn’t far behind last night’s in The Bronx.
The major difference between the two nights was the size of the room. Last night’s hearing in a Hostos cafeteria was a standing-room event—for the 20-25 people, that is, who showed up too late to grab one of the 96-100 folding chairs. As a result, the small space looked overflowing. Whether this was by the commission’s design, to help appearances after the first hearing’s low turn-out, or by coincidence, we don’t know.
Regardless, it does seem the Daily News, at least, fell for the illusion. In one entry in today’s Daily Politics blog, Celeste Katz puts last night’s attendance (as observed by Erin Einhorn) at “more than 150 people (compared to the scant crowd at last week’s Manhattan hearing).”
As for the substance of last night’s hearing, community boards reigned supreme. Of the 37 speakers, 21 called for the preservation or strengthening of the boards, both in the Bronx and citywide. Two Bronx CB chairs and two district managers showed their support.
Term limits and non-partisan primary elections were the other often-raised topics of the evening. But you don’t have to believe us—or, for that matter, the Daily News. This year’s charter revision commission hearings are being Webcast live. You can watch an archived video of last night’s hearing here.