What are Community Boards?
Manhattan’s Community Boards are local organizations composed of 50 volunteer members serving staggered two-year terms, a budget, a district manager and staff that are tasked with being the independent and representative voices of their communities.
What does my Community Board do?
Beyond serving as a voice for Manhattan’s residents on community matters, each Community Board has three distinct responsibilities: monitoring the delivery of city services, such as sanitation and street maintenance; planning and reviewing land use, including zoning regulations; and making recommendations for each year’s budget. These boards are pivotal designers of their communities who work to enhance and preserve the character of the city’s many unique neighborhoods.
Examples of other types of matters that Community Boards consider include: distribution of liquor licenses, consideration of sidewalk café applications, and permits for street fairs and other outdoor events. They may also weigh in issues before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Board of Standards and Appeals (which is a city agency dedicated to land-use and zoning regulation), and provide input on proposals from city agencies.
How do I attend a Community Board meeting?
All Community Board meetings are open to the public. The full Community Board of each district meets once a month. Meetings generally rotate locations but stick to the same monthly times. Subcommittees meet more frequently to discuss their individual areas of responsibility. Please see your individual Community Board section here and access your Community Board’s calendar for up-to-date information.
Why should I serve on a Community Board?
Manhattan is a dynamic, diverse borough and Community Boards ought to be representative of that diversity and energy. If you are passionate about your community and want an opportunity to shape the future of your city, we encourage you to apply to serve on a Community Board. Community Board Members are empowered voices in the development of Manhattan and New York City.
How do I apply to serve on a Community Board?
The Manhattan Borough President’s Office provides applications to serve on Community Boards here. If you are a new applicant, we recommend that you attend at least one of your local Community Board’s meetings before you apply – serving on a Community Board is a major time commitment! Current Community Board members who want to serve another term can find a separate application here.
Are there any requirements for service on a Community Board?
All Community Board members must be residents of New York City and must have a residence, business, professional or other significant interest in the district. In addition, the Manhattan Borough President’s office looks for applicants with histories of involvement in their communities, expertise and skill sets that are helpful to community boards, attendance at community board meetings, and knowledge of issues impacting their community.
Community board membership is a major time commitment. Members are expected to be active, involved, and maintain a record of good attendance. In addition, they should seek to adhere to the principles of good government: honesty, accountability, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.
What is the application process like?
Prospective Community Board members must submit a biography or resume and complete a comprehensive application explaining their skills, goals as a Community Board member, and their relation to their districts. Applicants are also required to verify that they are residents of New York City. These applications are reviewed and evaluated by the independent Community Board Reform Committee, instituted by Manhattan Borough President Stringer as part of his Community Board revitalization effort. Qualified applicants are interviewed on the Board’s recommendation by staff members of the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. Based on the application and interview, the Community Board Reform Committee recommends applicants for appointment by the Borough President. Manhattan Borough President Stringer consults with City Council members and all regular appointments are made by April 1st.
Current Community Board members who want to serve another term must fill out a separate, shorter application. They are subject to the same application process but are automatically granted interviews.
What other factors are considered in the application process?
The Manhattan Borough President’s Office looks for applicants with histories of involvement in their communities, expertise and skill sets that are needed or otherwise helpful to Community Boards, attendance of their Community Board’s meetings and knowledge of its workings, and knowledge of the issues in their community and before their Community Board.
I’m not sure I have the time to serve on a Community Board as a full member. How else can I participate?
Community Boards are tasked with being the representative voices of their communities, but there are other opportunities for participation. Community Boards appoint public members to committees within the Community Board. Public members propose initiatives, participate in debates, and vote in their committees, but they cannot participate in full Board meetings. More information on public membership can be found at your individual Community Board’s website.
Civic engagement need not be limited to service on a Community Board. Block associations are often very active in local communities. Historic preservation societies work towards preserving the historic character of their neighborhoods. Tenants’ associations represent the interest of their residents. Many of these neighborhood-level associations require a less significant time commitment while still making significant impacts in their communities. Please see the website of your Community Board - accessible here - for links to some of these organizations.
What is the Community Board Reform Committee?
The Community Board Reform Committee functions as an independent screening panel for all board applicants. This committee is made up of good government groups, non-profit organizations and community-based organizations, and has established a standard set of criteria by which board applicants are assessed. Because of its institution, Community Board members are appointed and serve according to merit.The Community-Based Organizations represented on the screening panel include: the New York League of Conservation Voters, Partnership for NYC, the League of Women Voters, the Municipal Art Society, NYPIRG, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizen’s Union, the Women’s City Club of NY, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, West Harlem Environmental Action, the Regional Plan Association, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center and the Urban League.
Why is Community Board reform and empowerment necessary?
When Manhattan Borough President Stringer took office, high numbers of vacancies on Community Boards meant that communities were not adequately represented. A lack of balanced representation meant that some constituencies were left out of the political process. A politicized appointment process meant that unqualified applicants were potentially able to serve on Community Boards. Community Board Members were unfamiliar with conflicts-of-interest guidelines. And many people were unaware of the existence of Community Boards. Manhattan Borough President Stringer has therefore made Community Board reform and empowerment one of his top priorities in office. Please see Community Board Reform for more information.
What is my role as a Community Board Member?
Community Board Members are appointed to represent their communities and involve themselves in the development of the city. Community Board Members should be active, involved, and knowledgeable about the issues facing their communities. In addition, they should seek to adhere to the principles of good government: honesty, accountability, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.
What kind of information is available to help me as a Community Board Member?
The Office of the Manhattan Borough President has put together training manuals for Community Board Members on the topics of Land Use, Budget, Parliamentary Procedure, Resolution Writing, and Parliamentary Motions, as well as a general handbook. Please visit Community Board 101 to learn more.
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer • 212.669.8300
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor • New York, NY 10007 • © Copyright 2006
The Manhattan Borough Presidentís Office is an Equal Opportunity Employer.