At this Monday's monthly meeting of Community Board 14, serving Flatbush, Midwood and parts of Kensington, local residents and CB14 members engaged in lively discussions around topics immediately relevant to their community: Members voted on a special permit application, and reported on committees’ activities. And, when the 2-hour meeting was over, a few members even stayed behind to discuss the upcoming Brooklyn bus redesign briefing and offer their opinions.
If these sorts of civic discussions sound captivating to you, read on: The 18 community boards across Brooklyn are in search of their newest members, and this time, their goal is to diversify the boards to better represent the communities they are serving.
So, what is a community board, exactly? According to Borough President Antonio Reynoso in his op-ed for Brooklyn Paper, community board members are behind decisions on land use, liquor licenses, affordable housing, bike lanes, zoning and special permits.
“Community boards are the most grassroots level of our local government,” Reynoso said.
“What each community board focuses on is largely up to the Brooklynites who comprise it, which is why it’s so important to get involved.”
However, a 2022 demographic report showed that the Brooklyn community boards are not a true representation of the people living in the communities.
While 23% of the borough residents are 18 and younger, most applicants and appointees in the last application cycle ranged from 45-64. In total, only 17 applications of 828 were submitted in 2022 from residents 24 years old and younger.
“Our community boards aren’t as racially and ethnically diverse as our neighborhoods ... Nor do they adequately represent our borough’s diversity of education, housing, disability, immigration status, and more," said Carol-Ann Church, director of community boards in the office of the Brooklyn Borough President.
“When we talk diversity, we're speaking here not only of race and ethnicity -- which is what comes to mind for most people -- but we're speaking of age, interest, transportation modalities, gender identification, and home ownership,"
When asked whether there was hesitation from senior members to “pass the baton,” CB14 Chairwoman Jo Ann Brown said, “Absolutely not.”
“It's been a wonderful embrace. Some of our very long-standing members have made way for the younger members to lead committees, for new ideas and new technology. They have incredible institutional knowledge and are embracing all the new folks, giving them good advice on how they can succeed.”
Church echoed Brown, adding that younger members can help with the technology switches the board members are willing to make.
“We do understand that there will be some challenges with younger members, but they will be welcomed,” said Church.
Additionally, The BP's office is actively trying to reach residents of NYCHA, given that there are a lot of NYCHA developments in the community boards.
“I think the lack of awareness that applications are opening is a possible explanation for the lack of NYCHA applicants in general, and this is what we’re really working on this year."
Joel Siegel, a community board member for six years, said he hoped to see more of the young residents apply, adding that his time with CB14 gave him more knowledge on what’s going on in his neighborhood, and allowed him to “interact with governmental agencies for the betterment of our community.”
The deadline to submit is Feb. 14 , 2023.