The city’s best hope is that the incoming Biden administration, along with a Senate not controlled by Republican Mitch McConnell, passes another stimulus package that includes money to help states and cities fill in that glaring gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the city also has a responsibility to plan for a worst-case scenario, and that includes making plans to cut spending in areas that are bloated. The mayor and city officials are doing that through the Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG), which is asking city agencies to find savings, either by slashing their expenses or boosting their revenue.
Among the agencies that were asked to find savings were the city’s 59 local community boards. The most localized level of city government, these boards are made up of 50 volunteer members appointed by the borough president and City Council member.
Though all appointed members are dedicated volunteers, the boards are staffed by a few city employees, led by district managers, who handle constituent complaints, coordinate neighborhood events and set up community board committee and monthly meetings.
The community boards advise city and elected officials on local land use decisions, budget priorities and other policies related to transportation, public safety and more.
Community boards are often the first places that residents turn to when they need a question answered. Many lawmakers serve on these boards to familiarize themselves with city and local issues before running for public office.
Some members or district managers have served for decades, building important institutional and historical knowledge of their communities that are important for decision making.
Cutting their already small budgets, even in a fiscal crisis, doesn’t make much sense. The services that community boards and their staff provide are too important to New York City’s neighborhoods, and that cannot be overlooked when the mayor presents his final version of the city budget later this year.