While I agree with them on several other issues, I think this legislation, if passed, would be bad for local communities and the city as a whole. I think that since City Council members are now term-limited, they’re trying to touch others around them with the same fate. Change just for sake of change doesn’t accomplish anything.
Community boards can have up to 50 members. Half of those are appointed by City Council members and half are appointed by the borough president's office. I have been a member of Community Board 7 in Queens for over 10 years and was appointed in 2004 by then-Councilman John Liu. As a current member, this legislation would not affect me, but would affect new members coming to the board.
Community boards are made up of volunteers except for the district manager and small staff, who are paid city employees. We all serve on committees and subcommittees based on our knowledge and expertise.
I’m on the Land Use Committee, and with all the building going on in downtown Flushing, have been inundated with committee meetings and hearings over the last several years. I gladly volunteer my time and effort to review variance applications and other issues and rarely miss a meeting.
Councilman Dromm says our communities are changing, and so should the makeup of community boards to bring in new ideas, new cultures, backgrounds and ideas. This is already happening and doesn’t require a law.
Board membership changes every year due to retirements, job changes, families moving out of the area, and new appointees coming to the board. Continuing to serve on the board is not automatic. We have to submit a notarized application every two years, and some members do not re-apply.
Most boards are not operating at a full capacity of 50 members, and finding new dedicated volunteers who want to work a lot of hours for no pay is not easy. We’ve all seen newly appointed members come and go after only a year or two of service due to the time requirements necessary.
It’s only the sturdy and truly dedicated volunteers that hang in there for more than a couple of years. Let them continue to serve as long as they can.
If you want a community and city that works, you want a community board that is knowledgeable and strong. The community board is a direct link between the community and government. The core of each board is the long-serving seasoned members, who are the target of this legislation.
If you get rid of those folks, you weaken the board. To weaken the board is to weaken the voice of the people. People today need a stronger voice in government, not a weaker one. Your community will pay a big price for a weaker Community Board.
Tell your council member to vote “no” on this legislation.
Tyler Cassell is a member of Queens Community Board 7.