Gothamist 16-Year-Olds May Be Allowed To Serve As Community Board Members by John Surico

Gothamist
Gothamist
16-Year-Olds May Be Allowed To Serve As Community Board Members
John Surico
03/17/2014

Last week, a bill was introduced to the New York City Council that would lower the required minimum age for Community Board members from 18 to 16.

By doing so, the bill's creator, the newly elected Councilman Ben Kallos, hopes to offset the low percentage of Millennials involved with their Community Boards: in Manhattan, only 6 percent of this year's applicants were between the ages of 18 and 24. Kallos believes it'll be a real-life civics lesson, providing exciting insight to unexciting meetings.

"Around 20 percent of New Yorkers are under the age of 18, and allowing 16 and 17 year olds to serve on Community Boards will help ensure their voices get heard," Kallos told us. "When I served on CB8, I helped pioneer the Youth and Education Committee with a teenager who was assisting on the board. Hopefully, there would be more stories like this one if legislation passed in the state to make this change. Bringing teenagers into the process early on lays the groundwork for a lifetime of civic engagement."

He cited Scott Stringer's background as an example: when he was 16, Stringer was given special permission to become a Manhattan Community Board 12 member; now, he's the Comptroller of New York City. Just look at that civic engagement in action! As a result, the bill has been deemed the "Scott Stringer Resolution."

This measure would effectively allow high school students to join the mini-municipal bodies that make decisions on transportation, land zoning, bar openings, and other local metro issues before the 16-year-olds can drive, own property, drink alcohol, or vote in city, state and national elections. However, Kallos's counterpoint is that these theoretical civic-minded Millennials can be (and usually are) tried as adults in New York penal code, yet are unable to represent themselves in the community.

The bill has also been co-sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who's in charge of appointing CB members, Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Mark Levine, as well as Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and State Senator Andrew Lanza up in Albany.

Issue: 
Community