Community boards are local representative bodies. There are 59 community boards throughout the City, and each one consists of up to 50 unsalaried members, half of whom are nominated by their district's City Council members. Board members are selected and appointed by the Borough Presidents from among active, involved people of each community and must reside, work, or have some other significant interest in the community.
Each community board is led by a District Manager who establishes an office, hires staff, and implements procedures to improve the delivery of City services to the district. While the main responsibility of the board office is to receive complaints from community residents, they also maintain other duties, such as processing permits for block parties and street fairs. Many boards choose to provide additional services and manage special projects that cater to specific community needs, including organizing tenants associations, coordinating neighborhood cleanup programs, and more.
Community boards have a variety of responsibilities, including but not limited to:
- Dealing with land use and zoning issues. CBs have an important advisory role and must be consulted on the placement of most municipal facilities in the community. Applications for a change in or variance from the zoning resolution must come before the board for review, and the board's position is considered in the final determination.
- Assessing the needs of their own neighborhoods. CBs assess the needs of their community members and meet with City agencies to make recommendations in the City's budget process.
- Addressing other community concerns. Any issue that affects part or all of a community, from a traffic problem to deteriorating housing, is a proper concern of community boards.
It is important to note that while community boards serve as advocates for their neighborhood, they do not have the ability to order any City agency or official to perform any task. Despite this limitation, boards are usually successful in resolving the problems they address.
Anyone can attend a community board meeting! Board meetings occur once a month and are open to the public. At these meetings, members address items of concern to the community and hear from attendees. Boards regularly conduct additional public hearings - on the City's budget, land use matters, etc. - to give community members the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns.
Board committees do most of the planning and work on the issues that are brought to action at community board meetings. Each community board establishes the committee structure and procedures it feels will best meet the needs of its district. Committees may be functional committees that deal with specific Charter mandates (e.g. "Land Use Review" and "Budget" committees) or agency committees that relate to a particular agency (e.g. "Police" and "Sanitation" committees), among other structures. Non-board members may apply to join or work on board committees, which helps provide additional expertise and manpower.