2010-05-12 / Editorials

Community Boards: Democracy In Action

BY DAN HALLORAN

Community boards are the epitome of democracy in action. The city annually threatens to cut their funding, to undermine them, and to de-legitimize them. I have called for the city to make them stronger. Give them real power. Set real standards for membership. Appoint attorneys to help them achieve their goals. Fund them so they can get the job done.

With real power comes real responsibility. I commend anyone who wants to serve on our Community Boards and encourage all New Yorkers to do so.

As an elected leader, I have been entrusted with making appointments to our local Community Boards. This is a job I take very seriously. I have asked to meet with local board members to discuss their vision for our neighborhoods and how we can work together to achieve our common goals. Every member who has met with me has been reappointed. I have no interest in “shaking things up” just for the sake of doing so.

We’re on the same side here. We are both working for the taxpayers. I am saddened to see that Community Boards have been limited to the weakest of advisory roles. Once the boards approve a land use decision, developers have the leverage to do whatever they want. It takes the council member’s intervention to stop them.

I am willing to do this when necessary, but it is much better to just make sure the Community Board’s recommendations are binding. This way, we don’t have to send projects back to the drawing board to spend more months and years toiling in our city’s bureaucracy.

As an attorney, I know it takes a lawyer’s eye to review development proposals and make sure developers don’t have wiggle room to manipulate the system. The developers have teams of attorneys. It just isn’t a fair fight.

I want to give Community Boards the budget to hire counsel to review contracts and development proposals, to push back against developers who play by their own rules.

Community Boards are the voice of taxpaying New Yorkers. Instead of cutting Community Boards, we should work to make them stronger. That’s what I’m working to do as your Councilmember, and I thank the Community Boards for joining me in the fight.

City Councilmember Dan Halloran (RWhitestone) represents the 19th Council District, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Bayside, College Point, Auburndale, Beechhurst, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Robinwood and parts of Flushing, Douglaston and Little Neck.

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