DNAinfo.com 16-Year-Olds Take Step Closer to Serving on Community Boards by Lindsay Armstrong

16-Year-Olds Take Step Closer to Serving on Community Boards
Lindsay Armstrong

UPPER EAST SIDE — A push to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on their local community boards got a boost Monday thanks to a resolution passed by the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations.

The resolution signals the city’s support of a state bill that would allow them to serve as full voting members on their community boards. Under current regulations, members must be 18 or older to serve on a board unless they have special approval, as in the case of Jonathan Ehrlich, who was picked at 16 to serve on the Upper East Side's Community Board 8 in 2008.

“Allowing young people to become Community Board members would benefit the Boards by adding a youth perspective, diverse skills sets and by increasing the breadth of community representation," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who suggested the change during the committee’s recent hearing on community board reform, said in a statement.

"It will also promote civic participation among our youth," she added.

State Senator Andrew Lanza and State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic both introduced bills at the state level to amend the city charter to allow for the change. 

Current City Comptroller and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer started serving on his local community board at age 16 by special appointment, and he has credited the experience with leading to his career in public service.

While borough president, Stringer appointed 16-year-old Ehrlich to serve on the Upper East Side's Community Board 8 — where the teen served with Councilman Ben Kallos, who is now the chairman of the committee on governmental operations and co-sponsor of the resolution to open the doors to younger members.

Kallos was himself a comparatively young community board member, joining in his 20s.

“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds bring much-needed perspective, energy and commitment to their local Community Boards,” Kallos said in a statement. “I have been deeply impressed by the dynamism of the teenagers who have expressed interest in public service through Community Boards, and they should be empowered to assist their neighbors instead of prevented from participating in public life.”

The resolution will come before the full Council on June 11. The resolution's co-sponsors are urging Albany to pass the bills before the current legislative session ends.