Tag Archives: Community Boards

Voter Participation Takes the Spotlight

John Banks and Matthew Goldstein

This week’s charter revision commission forum on Voter Participation will take place at Lehman College in The Bronx at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 2. With live webcasting in place, it’s a fair bet that relatively few residents of Brooklyn or Staten Island will make the journey to personally attend —- except for members of the Independence Party and its youth affiliate, the All Stars Project.

The Independence Party — now New York State’s third largest — perennially pushes for non-partisan elections: a voting change that in NYC would weaken the dominant Democratic Party and make it easier for well-funded media campaigns to trump grass-roots voter organizing at the polls. Continue reading

Charter Revision Alumni Weigh In

F. A. O. Schwarz, Jr. photo courtesy praxagora.com

You wouldn’t expect that a panel discussion by former charter revision commission chairs would be enlightening or amusing, but it was both. Monday’s webcast panel at Baruch College featured former commission chairs Richard Ravitch (1986-88), F.A.O. Schwarz, Jr. (1989), Randy Mastro ( 1999, 2001), Frank Macchiarola (2003), and Ester Fuchs (2005). Current commission chair Matthew Goldstein moderated; several of his colleagues participated in the questioning.

The senior panelists agreed that Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 commission has no choice but to address term limits (although they couldn’t agree on how), that New York’s strong mayoralty must continue, and that the borough presidents’ offices should be strengthened. What they didn’t agree on — term limits, their impact on minority voting, the fate of the public advocate, and non-partisan elections — provided some lively back-and-forth. Continue reading

Charter Revision Commission Undermines Community Board Review of 2010 Proposals

Matthew Goldstein

The “issues forums” schedule just announced by the New York City Charter Revision Commission will limit public review of any proposed changes to ULURP, the city’s land use process.

This schedule needs to be scrapped.

The commission’s “issues forums,” calendared between May 25 and June 24, will generate charter proposals that won’t even be made public until July — when most New Yorkers have started their vacations, and community boards have gone on summer break. Continue reading

Charter Revision: Just Like Jury Duty

Stephen J. Fiala

One surprise from Monday morning’s webcast meeting of the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission at the Tweed Courthouse was that Staten Island commission member Stephen J. Fiala emerged as a hard-liner with respect to the commission’s tight schedule. Here’s what happened:

Chairman Matthew Goldstein asked executive director Lorna Goodman to describe the five “issues forums” that the commission will convene starting later this month. These, she said, will center on land use; term limits, voter participation, including consideration of non-partisan elections; “balance of powers,” including the roles of the borough presidents and the community boards; and fiscal integrity.

Goldstein then turned to Fiala to read the resolution by which the commission would formally adopt the commission’s calendar, including another round of public hearings to be held during the summer. After those, he said, the commission will have to make a “pivotal decision” prior to September 2 as to  “whether to cull a subset of issues” to be presented on November’s ballot. Continue reading

Community Board Budgets to be Restored

Mayor Bloomberg’s Fiscal Year 2011 Executive Budget calls for the restoration of community board funding to $198,895.

The restoration comes after almost $60,000 in reductions proposed by the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget earlier this year.

Those proposed reductions prompted many community board members to argue for “baseline budgeting” at April’s charter revision commission public hearings. Many boards also reached out for help to their borough presidents and City Council members. Continue reading

Updates around the city

Brighton Beach Avenue

Just to remind us of the continuing battle between neighborhood preservationists and developers in NYC, Sunday’s NY Times Real Estate section’s “Living In” profile of Brighton Beach noted the beachfront neighborhood’s continuing high-rise development:

“In 2008, responding to community alarm, the city’s Planning Department proposed a 54-block rezoning of the area that would have capped the heights of many structures at four stories. But developers’ opposition proved overwhelming and last June the city withdrew the plan.”

Elsewhere, the city’s 59 community boards — favorite forums for neighborhood preservationists — continue to face severe cuts to their budgets. Our colleague at Bronx Board 12, Father Richard F. Gorman, writes that the latest reduction leaves each community board with a budget lower than the take-home salary of a single Bloomberg commissioner. Despite the infinitesimal impact on the city’s budget, the mayor has not rescinded the cuts.

Last Thursday, the Staten Island Advance reported on NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s address before a Staten Island economic development conference: “The City Charter Revision Commission ‘should grant borough presidents and community boards more of a say over how services are rendered,’ Silver said, adding, ’if there is a pothole on Hylan Boulevard, the borough president ought to be able to get it filled.’” The Advance did not say whether Silver acknowledged that the State legislature has the power to convene a NYC charter revision commission of its own. Continue reading

Charter Revision: What to Expect in May

Kingsbridge Armory

The populist image conveyed by the charter revision commission’s April public hearings will fade in May when invited “consultants, ” commission members, and staff publicly dissect the legalistic, technical, and detailed language of the City Charter at a series of “issue forums.” What are some of the technical issues the experts will examine?

According to commission chair Matthew Goldstein, one prominent goal of this year’s commission will be to find ways to improve “efficiency” in city government. Almost certainly, this will involve identifying procedural and structural changes that can create a more development-friendly environment and help future mayors control key land use decisions. Such changes would seek to prevent recurrence of events such as Mayor Bloomberg’s recent loss to the City Council on the Kingsbridge Armory Mall project in The Bronx, where a dispute over wage rates caused the Council to reject the initiative. Continue reading