Borough president rallies against proposed community board cuts

The Borough President led community board employees and volunteers in a rally on Monday to voice their opposition to the proposed budget cuts that some fear will lead to the end of the boards.

On Monday, April 5, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., joined by elected officials from throughout the Bronx, hosted a press conference on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, to protest the devastating cuts.

“We are here with the community board district managers, chairs and volunteers – because we want to protect our community boards, our community partners,” Diaz said.“With these cuts it seems the mayor is taking the bloodline from the frontlines of democracy.The community boards are where our most vulnerable residents go when they need help or are looking for essential services.”

The proposed budget modifications for the fiscal year 2011 would reduce each community board budget from roughly $207,000 to approximately $144,000.

According to Diaz, less than $2 million would be saved by these cuts.

“I was district manger of Community Board 10 for 26 years,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca.“We need our community boards and we need for people to fight for our neighborhoods.We need a community based little City Hall because sometimes the big City Hall doesn’t get the picture.We will do all we can to restore these cuts.”

Many at the rally dismissed the idea that the mayor’s 311 initiative is an effective replacement for community boards, which were established in 1975 to act as an advisory panel for matters such as land-use and zoning.

Diaz remarked that in the mayor’s inaugural speech he called for volunteerism throughout the city, yet the cuts would dismiss the more than 700 volunteers currently serving on Bronx boardss.

Ken Kearns, district manager of CB10, was pleased with the turnout of the rally and hopes city officials will realize the value of community boards.

“We are equal parts in the city government and should be funded and staffed as such,” said the four-year district manager.

Should the cuts go through, Kearns noted that the board would have to make some difficult decisions about reducing their staffing, hours of operations, and services for the community.

“The community boards are run through volunteers and minimal staffing,” said Kearns.“They really are the best bang for your buck.”

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