Bronx beep encouraging community board applications as looming March 1 deadline approaches

The public attends an in-person joint Community Board 5 & 6 meeting in Fordham on Monday, June 12, 2023.
The public attends an in-person joint meeting of community boards 5 and 6 in Fordham on Monday, June 12, 2023.
Photo Camille Botello

Last year, the Bronx Borough President’s Office was sifting through around 300 community board position applications. But as of Feb. 21, around 160 applications sit on BP Vanessa L. Gibson’s desk. 

The approaching deadline and the fact that there are currently about half the number of applicants as the end of the application period last year has inspired Gibson to try to recruit more applicants during a day of action on Feb. 21. 

“Our community board members play a crucial role in our democracy by advocating on behalf of their neighbors and by being the voice of their communities,” Gibson said in a statement when announcing the application period. 

Community boards are bodies that serve as the local advisers for policymakers — including New York City Council members, state senators and assemblymembers — as well as local and state agencies. While they don’t have actual legislative voting power, they are permitted to vote on and issue opinions about community issues. 

Bronx Community Board 7 members speak during the body's full meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 at Monroe College.
Bronx Community Board 7 members speak during the body’s full meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 at Monroe College. Photo Camille Botello

The BP’s office is specifically encouraging young people to apply to their local community boards — an initiative also set into action last application season. Last year the youngest community board member was Leona Teten, a then-17-year-old at Bronx High School of Science who said she brought perspective to Bronx Community Board 8’s Youth Committee and Parks and Recreation Committee. 

Mary Elhakam, currently a member of Bronx Community Board 11, told the Bronx Times she’d like to see more diversity on each of the borough’s 12 boards. Board 11 encompasses the neighborhoods of Allerton, Indian Village, Morris Park, Pelham Gardens, Pelham Parkway and Van Nest.  

“Learning by doing is one of the best ways to get out there,” the 23-year-old Manhattanville College grad student said. 

Elhakam started on her local community board as an intern when she was 15, then interned for then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office at 16. After finishing high school and undergrad, she came back to the Bronx and joined Community Board 11 again. The daughter of Coptic Egyptian immigrant parents, Elhakam said she wants to see more representation in American government — and that it starts at the local level. 

“Having representation from all sides … is vital to make sure that the needs of our community are met,” she said. 

The body Elhakam serves on, Bronx Community Board 11, has been under fire throughout the past year for its chaotic meetings, conflicts of interest, division, and ethics committee complaints. But most recently, eyes have turned to the board because of a string of complaints against individual board members. 

The first came in November 2023, when the board voted in executive session to create a committee to potentially strip both board chair Bernadette Ferrara and vice chair Al D’Angelo of their leadership positions. The effort to remove Ferrara comes primarily from critics who claim she neglected her board duties while campaigning for the Nyc Council District 13 seat in the June 2023 primary. Separately, D’Angelo has faced intense scrutiny after an article published by The City highlighted the column D’Angelo penned in the Bronx Times in April 2023, where he questioned why “Black Americans are the least educated, least healthy and among the most incarcerated ethnic group in the country.” 

Then in late December Gibson removed board member Miguel Dyer, who was caught flipping his middle finger at a resident during a remote meeting last year. He has since claimed he was unjustly removed from his position. 

But even with the ongoing drama in Community Board 11, most of the other boards operate relatively quietly. Recently, the most pressing issues boards have been issuing opinions on have been development projects and cannabis dispensary locations in their district. 

Gibson will start her day of action to recruit community board applicants at the Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road subway off the 2 and 5 train lines from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Gibson will then head to the Hunts Point station at 163rd Street and Hunts Point Avenue and the Mosholu Parkway train station at Jerome Avenue from 2 to 5 p.m.

Elhakam told the Bronx Times that even though government systems seems complex, that serving on a community board gives members the framework for how to be civically engaged in New York City. 

“There’s never a right time to get involved,” she said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of being aware and being involved.”

The deadline to submit your application is Friday, March 1, on the borough president’s website.

This story was updated at 11:48 a.m. on Feb. 21. A previous version of this story stated that only 75 applications had been submitted, but that information given by the Bronx Borough President’s Office was inaccurate. 

Reach Camille Botello at For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes