On the steps of City Hall, elected officials and community board leaders from throughout the city rallied against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cuts to the boards.
In the mayor’s budget, $30,000 was chopped from the $190,000 each board receives. The money goes toward office expenses and the staff that handle day-to-day operations.
Community boards have an advisory vote on land-use issues and certain business licenses. But for residents, the boards provide a venue to voice concern, criticism or praise for development projects and quality of life issues.
Borough President Scott Stringer, who made community board reform a cornerstone of his first term, called the cuts outrageous, noting that 1990 was the last time community boards saw a raise in their budgets.
“The city’s proposed cut to community board budgets threatens the first line of democracy in our city,” Stringer said.
Comptroller William Thompson, Bloomberg’s rival for mayor, said the cut will render community boards ineffective.
“They’re the eyes and ears for our government, and the eyes and ears for our borough presidents,” Thompson said. “The mayor is trying to reduce their voice, cut them to the point where he can turn around and say, let’s get rid of community boards and borough presidents.”
The Council members in attendance promised to restore the cuts, if not increase the budget. Council Member Robert Jackson of Harlem, part of the budget negotiating team, said if Albany passes the city’s revenue package, there will be money for the boards.
Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Upper West Side’s Community Board 7, said that the budget cuts stifle 8 million people from voicing their opinions.
“We need this forum where people can have their say,” Rosenthal said.
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