Skip to main content

Mayor to Community Boards: drop dead (or, at least, wither away)

The city’s 59 Community Boards, according to the mayor’s office, “have an important advisory role in dealing with land use and zoning matters, the City budget, municipal service delivery, and many other matters relating to their communities' welfare.”

They represent, on average, nearly 140,000 people each, a population larger than cities like New Haven, CT; Trenton, NJ; and Albany, NY. And while they obviously don’t run city agencies, they could try to fulfill their role--if they had the money.

But Community Board budgets average around $220,000, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s budget proposes that those budgets go down 5%, not up. 

Yes, the city budget is under stress, but, as Manhattan CB 7 Chair Helen Rosenthal notes in this March 16 Gotham Gazette commentary, the entire community board budget is some $15 million--essentially a rounding error in a $60 billion budget. (Actually, the budget this year looks like it'll be under $14 million. See p. 55 of this PDF budget document.)

Numerous Community Boards asked for an increase in their budgets, pointing out that they're already stretched to the bone, and the CBs can’t fulfill their mandates in the city charter.

Harsh response

The message from the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, in budget documents (PDF) released Friday, was unyielding: The Community Board budget will be reduced in FY 2010.

That’s not the end of the story. Later this month, the City Council will hold public hearings on the Executive Budget, allowing comment by interested parties, and the budget will be revised before it takes effect July 1. The City Council in the past has restored proposed mayoral cuts, but this year may be different, as NY1 noted April 29.

(Nor does the mayor's office seem to be following the Community Boards' service priorities, as the Independent Budget Office pointed out March 19.)

List of requests

Below is a sample of explanations why Community Boards requested more funding.

Brooklyn CB 6
Funding in the amount of $300,000 is requested in order for Community Boards to fulfill their Charter mandated roles to plan and advocate for neighborhood needs. An increase in funds will be used to fund the hiring of a planner, to keep pace with cost of living adjustments which have never been applied to Community Boards, to upgrade complaint systems software which was previously supplied and supported by prior Administrations and to expand District Office functionality with the purchase of additional equipment and supplies. Increases in funding for Collective Bargaining Increases do not address this.

Brooklyn CB 8
The 59 Community Boards are vital in the City's operating process. However, Community Boards still woefully lack adequate funding. Community Boards need to be able to hire planners and other skilled professionals to evaluate development projects. The meager budgets provided for the boards do not keep pace with inflation and any increased operating costs. The costs for acquiring much needed newer technology, computer software, upgraded hardware as well as internet/web access capabilities is expensive. In order to continue delivering the most valuable mission per the 1989 revised City Charter, we staunchly advocate for increased budget allocations for all Community Boards.

Bronx CB 2
With pending budget cuts/service reduction to larger city agencies, community boards will have an increased role assuring delivery of essential services to their constituencies.


Bronx CB 6
Community boards, which are among the city's smallest agencies and have been subject to a 2.5% reduction in FY09 and are slated for a 5% reduction in FY 2010 thru 2012. Unlike larger agencies, community boards can not absorb these cuts through attrition, layoffs, and reductions in the purchase of equipment and supplies. For community boards such cuts are devastating and negatively impact our abiity to carry out our City Charter mandated duties. We ask that the community boards funding be restored to at least their original fiscal year 2009 level of $199,895.


Bronx CB 7
The budgets for the community boards have remained flat for the last 15 years, seeing no cost of living increases except for union mandated wage adjustments. Now community boards are asked to implement several cuts over the next few years in an attempt to balance the budget. The amount of savings garnered (less than 1/10000th of a percent) is miniscule in comparison to the overall city budget, but devestating to the day-to-day operations of the individual community boards. We ask that the city restore all recent and projected cuts to community boards to assure that they can continue to provide services to their districts.


Brooklyn CB 12
Some years ago, monies were taken out of the Community Board budgets and were never fully replenished. Last year for the first time, the Commmunity Boards' budgets were negatively impacted because the Boards had to partially fund collective bargaining increases as well as the Mayor's Personnel Order for Managerial Increases. The Mayor has once again cut the Board's budgets. Based on this, most Community Boards are operating on a deficit unable to afford supplies and other amenities. The Boards' budgets must be increased, not decreased.

Manhattan CB 1
The current allocation is woefully inadequate to address the rapidly increasing needs faced by our Lower Manhattan Community Board. Community Boards play a critical role in providing local residents and workers with a voice in determining policies and priorities for their community. An increase would greatly assist us in fulfilling our important mission, at this time when Lower Manhattan is being redeveloped and the many major construction projects are challenging the quality of life of our residents and workers.


Queens CB 9
Community Boards currently receive $183,000 to operate the District Office. We are requesting an increase to $250,000, a portion of which will be used to upgrade and maintain our complaint system, fund a postage increase and provide technical support.

Upgrading training and hiring planners

Brooklyn CB 7 asked for funding “to provide access & training on zoning & land use matters for its members.”

The response was that the Department of City Planning doesn’t have funding, but can provide some help.

Brooklyn CB 18 asked for a budget increase to both “restore the cuts and to allow for the hiring of a planner consistent with... the City Charter.” The response was no.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has proposed a plan in which urban planning interns are placed at Community Boards, but the mayor’s office, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, are wary of the modest cost.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…