Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Community Board 6 Massacre Fallout: Calls for Reform

The purge of Community Board 6 members several weeks ago by Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Members David Yassky and Bill deBlasio continues to reverberate a bit. It's worth noting that some people are now calling for board members to be elected in order to end the kind of political control that led to the purge. The removals of members were believed to be related to votes against Atlantic Yards and an effort to shape the board in a way that will be more favorable to a more high density Gowanus rezoning. In any case, the Bay News writes:
Community boards are supposed to represent the voice of the neighborhoods they serve, but according to an increasing number of residents, they are hardy the bastions of democratic discourse they’re cracked up to be.

The purging of nine members from Community Board 6 opposed to the Atlantic Yards project has only solidified that view and sparked new calls for changes in the way people make it onto their local community board...Under the current system, prospective candidates are appointed to the community board either by the borough president or their City Council member.

Advocates calling for change say that the process needs to be opened up, replacing political appointments with elected community representation.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer proposed a community board reform package last year. A version of the measure was also presented to Borough President Marty Markowitz by the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (which works on overdevelopment and preservation issues outside of Manhattan). He has rejected it. Some of the the reforms deal with helping the boards cope more professionally with the onslaught of complicated issues with which they deal. For instance, a professional planner would be available to work on big development issues. Council Member Bill de Blasio, who is often mentioned as a likely candidate to replace Mr. Markowitz, did not embrace the reform ideas when the Bay News asked him about them, saying "right now this is our system and I am doing what I think is best to make it more workable to achieve the goals I think are important."

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