Community Boards are the independent and representative voices of their communities—the most grass-roots form of local government. The Boards are pivotal in shaping their communities and work to enhance and preserve the character of the city’s many unique neighborhoods.
Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards (59 total in the City of New York) are composed of 50 volunteer members serving staggered two-year terms– thus, 25 members are appointed (or reappointed) each year. Each Board has a budget, a district manager and staff, and has three distinct responsibilities:
- Monitoring the delivery of city services such as sanitation and street maintenance;
- Planning and reviewing land use applications including zoning changes; and
- Making recommendations for each year’s city budget.
Community Boards consider a wide range of issues, including distribution of liquor licenses, consideration of sidewalk café applications, and permits for street fairs and other outdoor events. They may also weigh in issues before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Board of Standards and Appeals (the city agency dedicated to land-use and zoning regulation), and provide input on proposals from city agencies.
Members are officially appointed by the Manhattan Borough President. Half of the members of these boards are selected unilaterally by the Manhattan Borough President, and half are nominated by the City Council Members whose districts overlap with the Community District.
Community Board members must live, work, or have an otherwise significant interest in the neighborhoods served by the community district, and be a New York City resident. No more than 25 percent of the members of any board may be New York City employees.
In short, if you are interested in learning more about or getting involved in your local politics, attending your community board meeting is your first step. You can find out which community board you belong to and their contact information on NYC.gov website.