Budget cuts threaten community boards

The Borough President led community board (CB) 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 community 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 the each community boards’ budget from roughly $207,000 to approximately $144,000.

According to Diaz, less than $2 million would be saved by these cuts, while programs such as the CityTime project continue to receive outrageous funding.

“Community boards are the most local form of government we have,” said Councilman Joel Rivera.“The community boards have been doing more with less, on average they each have 1.5 staffers.Besides CityTime, the city has public service announcements that cost $10 million to tell us things we already know.I think we need to cut the fat and find more creative ways to save resources.”

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

“311 can’t be at meetings, 311 can’t hear about the environmental degradation in the communities, 311 can’t understand delays in the Yankee Stadium parks project.When we have a hot sheet hotel, the community board is first to know about it, not 311,” said Assemblyman Michael Benjamin.“The community boards are the first line of defense.We can’t afford to let this mayor, or any mayor, or any other agency decrease funding.”

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

“The mayor would be cutting the most direct part of city government,” said Father Richard Gorman, chairperson of CB12.“My own feeling is if we lose community boards, we lose democracy.”

“Who is better to advise what is going on in their own community,” questioned Roberto Garcia, chair of CB2.

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