Brooklyn Daily Eagle Council Eyes Term Limits for Community Board Members by Paula Katinas

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Council Eyes Term Limits for Community Board Members
Paula Katinas
04/15/2014

Community board members would face term limits if a resolution introduced in the City Council is adopted by boards across the city.

Brooklyn council members Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick) are among the lawmakers supporting the resolution introduced on April 10 by council members Ben Kallos, Jimmy Vacca and Mark Levine calling for the community boards to adopt sweeping reforms to the recruitment and appointment of members. The resolution also calls on borough presidents to adopt the changes.

The recommendations contained in Resolution 164 include term limits, recruitment efforts to attract young people, instituting independent screening panels for community board applicants and requiring conflict of interest forms to be filled out by applicants. Members seeking re-appointment would not be granted automatic renewal. Instead, their applications would be reviewed to determine if they are active participants and have good attendance records at board meetings.

The recommendations stem from a hearing of the council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, chaired by Kallos (D-Upper East Side), on March 3.

The recommendations include:

  • Term limits of five consecutive two-year terms for board members.
  • Online application and technology infrastructure.
  • Conflict of interest disclosure by all applicants.
  • Requiring reappointment applications with evaluation of attendance, service and participation.
  • Ban on political appointments; specifically staffers of elected officials and executive board members of a political party.
  •  Filling vacancies within 30 days.
  • Improved outreach and recruitment focusing on diversity, geography and experts.
  • Youth representation by 16- and 17-year olds as public members of youth committees and as full board members.

The resolution’s sponsors said they are seeking to create inclusive, apolitical boards that truly represent communities.
 
Under current law, community boards are free to set their own term limits on officers. Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge, for example, limits its chairmen to three consecutive terms in office. Community Board 11 in Bensonhurst has no term limits for officers. Most community boards do not have term limits for members.

"Term limits, conflicts of interest disclosure, youth participation and ending automatic reappointment will not only reduce absenteeism but reinvigorate our community boards with members using their precious time to improve their neighborhood," Kallos said.

“The introduction of Resolution 164 calls for vital improvements to the systems currently in place by our community boards. As a community organizer, I know that sharing best practices is the lifeline of progress, and so many of the recommendations based on this shared information would promote more transparency, diverse representation, and more accountability," Reynoso said.

The duties and responsibilities of community boards are spelled out in the City Charter. There are 59 community boards across the city, according to NYC.gov, which describes them as local representative bodies. The boards operate in an advisory capacity only, offering city officials their opinions on such things as land use or whether a bar should be granted a liquor license. Board members are appointed by the borough president of that borough. Each board has up to 50 members, all of them unsalaried and half of whom are nominated by their district's City Council members.

Each community board hires a district manager who is a paid employee and who establishes an office, hires staff, and is responsible for responding to constituent complaints and working with agencies to ensure the smooth delivery of city services such as street cleaning and trash collections. Community board staff members also process permits for block parties and street fairs.

One member of a community board in southwest Brooklyn said she agreed with the proposed changes. “I think term limits is a good idea. There are a lot of people on my board who have been there for a long time and do nothing. It would be good to get some fresh faces in,” the board member told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The March 3 hearing included testimony from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, community board chairs and district managers, good government groups, and youth advocacy organizations.

Between April 1 and May 30, four new borough presidents and 21 new city council members, along with their previously elected colleagues, will be making 1,475 appointments to 59 community boards in the five boroughs.

 

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Community Board Term Limits

Brooklyn Community Board 11 has its own agenda and it is not for the residents of this Community.  I have attended several meetings in which I spoke at 2 of these meetings during the public time,  I went to discuss problems we/and neighbors were having due to the construction of the Federation of Italian American Organizations' (FIAO)  Community/Cultural Center. This building is 6 stories high and they can see in our homes from their windows, also they can see in our backyard from their 5th floor balcony which will take away all of our privacy.  Their parking lots will be an encouragement for people to drive here.  The on street level parking lot is located right next to the Residence for Autistic Children,

This Center is adjacent to my/and neighbors’ homes. The fact that having a underground garage, also a street level garage will cause the residents of this community to deal with the more air and noise pollution which could cause toxic effects on the health of the residents of this community These cars going to this Center will be lining up by our homes waiting to get into this underground or street level parking lot day and night/every day. This is forcing us to live with more traffic, air and noise pollution.  These are the things that I was discussing at the Community Board Meeting.  I was interrupted by the Board Manager, Marnee Elias-Pavia who asked me to sit down and she told me she would talk to me after the Board Meeting was over. At the end of the meeting Ms. Elias-Pavia walked right past me without saying a word and left the meeting.  I saw William Guarinello as he walked in the opposite direction with some people. I would go and talk to him after those people walked away. Unfortunately, he left rather quickly and I never got to talk to him. 

Having the FIAO's Community/Cultural Center next to our and neighbors’ homes will take away any quality of life that the residents of this community could possibly have.  There will be more air and noise pollution, traffic, loitering, littering, privacy issues, possibly an increase to crime etc.). The Centers' hours of operation are from 7AM to 10PM and later on weekends/7 days a week. This Center will encourage more motorists to drive here due to the option of parking in a garage. This community already has lot traffic due to all the businesses located here. In a 2 block radius of this Community Center there is a Post Office, Children's learning center, Home Improvement Center, 5 Churches, Fire Station, 6 Restaurants, Library, 2 Supermarkets, Medical Building, Bank, Credit Union, 8 Auto Repair Shops, Motorcycle Repair Shop,  etc. That is a lot of businesses so close together and now a community Center. The center that will have long hours and take away any peace that we/and neighbors could possibly have living in this Community.  My question is why would the Community Board not try and protect the residents of this community from dealing with all this on a daily basis.  We know for a fact that this Community Board would not allow some other businesses into this Community for their own reasons. This Center will cause the homes in this community to be worth less, as well as it will be more difficult to sell our properties.

We were told that William Guarinello who is the Chairman for Brooklyn Community Board 11 and who also is the President and CEO of the Heartshare Program for Autistic Children was given an office in the FIAO Community Center.  Mr. Guarinello is very busy man, and obviously he did not have the time to protect  the residents of this community that have been exposed to an incredible amount of noise and air pollution from the Motorcycle Repair Shop that was across the street from the Children’s' Residence on a daily basis.  

Also, I told Mr. Guarinello and Ms. Pavia about the fact that Bay 19th Streets and Benson Avenue is an unofficial truck route and 24/7 we/and neighbors of this community are being forced to inhale these toxic emissions as these trucks race past our homes 24/7. Also, the fact that only about 30% of the motorists that drive down Bay 19th (corner of Benson Avenue even attempt to make a full stop, mostly everyone else passes that Stop Sign. On a regular basis motorists race to make the Traffic Light on the corner of Benson Avenue and 18th Avenue. Our streets are extremely dangerous and local residents have a difficult time crossing the streets because of it.  Another problem is the fact that on a daily basis people sit in their cars by the No Parking Anytime Sign and leave their cars idling for very long periods of time while making phone calls or eat .

 There are laws regarding some of these issues but no one does anything about it. We told/and included all of these issues on a list  which was given to Mr. Guarinello and Ms. Pavia at a Community Board 11 Meeting as well as it was also given to the Police Community Team.  In addition, We have gotten in touch with several public officials and public and private organizations but after hearing the names of the organizations we were having problems with no one gave us any assistance. There was one politician who tried to help us but he did not want his name mentioned because of their political affiliations.      

The FIAO has had and continues to have their board members on the Brooklyn Community Board 11.  In fact when I spoke at the Brooklyn Community Board 11's Meeting one of the FIAOs' Board Members who is also a member of our Community Board 11's board was sitting right in front me.  The FIAO has a lot of political clout and is affiliated with many, many public and private organizations.  The FIAO has Board Members that used to be and continue to be on the Brooklyn Community Board 11. In fact one the FIAO's Board Members used to work as Chief of Staff for the Brooklyn Borough President's Office (he and the Brooklyn Borough President were involved in a conflict of interests’ case). This same FIAO board member is presently the President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.  Another FIAO Board Member works for the Brooklyn Department of Buildings, and another FIAO board member used to be a Chaplin for the Police Department, etc., etc.  These people are well connected.

The Brooklyn Community Board 11 has friends in high places and is particularly close to the members of the board for the FIAO.  Our Community Board has given this organization a free ride which will cause the residents of this community to have to live with these people ruining the lives of the residents of this Community.   This is like having Big Brother watching us and these people has taken away our rights to have a voice in what is taking place in our community. We have no homeowners’ rights to enjoyment our property as well as having peace in our homes. The Brooklyn Community Board members should be taken out of office.  The Community Board is supposed to take care and assist the residents of a community but they could care less and they did even try to get the FIAO and residents of this community to sit down and discuss any problems. Also, the FIAO is a Community organization you would think they would want good relations with the residents of this Community.  We had asked the Police Community Team to ask them to meet with us but the FIAO refused. 

I believe that the Mr. Guarinello and Ms. Elias-Pavia has their own agenda and it does not include the residents living in this community.  I think their term in office  has been too long and it  has given these people too much power.  Mr. Guarinello and Ms. Elias-Pavia have forgotten that they should be protecting the residents of this community not throwing them into the Lions Den.  They  are forcing the residentsin this community to live in an environment that could be unhealthy mentally and physically. They have not given the residents a say in what goes on in their own communities. The Community Board 11 has allowed an organization to take over our community and has taken away the rights of the residents. This is is a conflict of interests!!!!

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