BY SCOTT STIFFLER | There’s no doubt about it: The President of the United States leaves a lasting mark if ever called upon to nominate a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Here on the hyperlocal level, a guy named Mark—aka Manhattan Borough President (MBP) Mark Levine—leaves many lasting marks, when his Office answers the annual call to fill vacant seats on Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards. Unlike our country’s Oval Office occupant, however, the MBP doesn’t just come up with candidates and toss the baton to Congress. In fact, the process doesn’t really kick into high gear until would-be Board members fill out a highly detailed application and submit it to the MBP’s Office, essentially nominating themselves.
As for what happens next, Levine’s website explains it thusly: “These [Community Board] applications are reviewed and evaluated by an independent screening panel. Qualified applicants are interviewed on the panel’s recommendation by staff members of the Manhattan Borough President’s office. Appointments are based on the application, panel recommendation, and interviews… 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.”
Buy why would a person want to seek, let alone accept, such an appointment? It’s an unpaid volunteer position, the meetings can run loooooooong (4+ hours!), and at any given gathering, you’re apt to get an earful of lip from that sassy, serial crank who never fails to show up and claim a 2-minute speaking slot made available to members of the public. (Having said that, it’s worth noting that Public Session participants not always in possession of the facts usually arrive with their moral compass in tow—and intact.)
Hey now, don’t let a drawback or two scare you off. Truth is, Community Board meetings are more akin to a Saharan watering hole where peace breaks out long enough to achieve a common goal rather than to a catastrophic steam release event that stops traffic and sends manhole covers skyward. Serving on a Community Board affords you the rare distinction of influencing policy and protocol, regarding things like the distribution of liquor licenses, land use and zoning regulations, and proposals from City agencies, as well as items considered by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission—and 2024 hot topics like the public/private partnership proposed for Chelsea’s NYCHA properties, the proliferation of smoke shops, the presence of licensed cannabis dispensaries, and allowing casino gambling in NYC. With that in mind, if the Community Board Membership Application beckons, click here. Be prepared to explain exactly why you want to join, and what skills you have to offer. In addition to completing the online application, you’ll also be asked to submit a biography or resume.
To see what it really takes to serve, click here and click here to visit, respectively, the YouTube channels of Manhattan Community Board 4 and Manhattan Community Board 5. There, you’ll find recordings of past committee and full board meetings, where the months-long (sometimes years-long) process of bringing a topic from first discussion to hard-won fruition has been preserved in Internet amber, accessible to you and yours 24/7/365. To visit, respectively, the CB4 and CB5 websites, click here and click here.
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