Today’s news:

Community boards fight cuts

Community boards are bracing for cuts of more than 30% in the City budget put forth by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. They are hoping that the City Council will act to restore the planned cuts before the start of the next fiscal year in July.

The cuts would deplete the average community board budget from around $200,000 to $140,000 per year. Many have found this an unacceptable level of funding that would leave the boards unable to perform services mandated under the NYC City Charter. The boards allow the community to comment on the placement of all municipal facilities in their communities, and can weigh in on development, zoning, and licensing issues.

The uproar at the boards is almost universal, as many feel that a cut would force a reduction in staff and services that could make the work that the boards do on the grass roots level of government ineffective.

“The cuts are what every city agency is facing, and we understand that,” said Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns. “But there is a big difference in this percentage cut for a large multi-million dollar city agency and the community boards. This will seriously affect our core ability to service the people who come to our office.”

Kearns said that he views the City Council as an ally of the board because if the community boards were made inefficient because of cuts, the only other office for constituent services on the local level of government in the community would be the district offices of the City Council members.

Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta called the cuts to the boards an unconscionable action, and has heard rumorsthat it may be a power grab on the part of the Bloomberg administration to diminish the role of the city’s 59 community boards in development and other land use matters.

“The Mayor keeps denying that he is looking to do away with the community boards, but the cut that he is proposing is obscene,” Fratta said. “We are the only brake between developers and the community. The community board is the most local form of government and to lessen its powers would be to increase the powers of the developers.”

Father Richard Gorman, chairperson of Community Board 12, said that whether or not the boards remain a viable outlet to voice community concerns comes down to the restoration of at least some funding by the City Council.

“The most accessible people in city government other than the boards are the City Council members and their staffs, and I hope that the council is smart enough to realize that if they gut the community boards it would put more strain on their staffs because consitituants would have nowhere else to go,” Gorman said. “The $2 million saved by these proposed cuts to the boards is not going to make a difference in this fiscal crisis.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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