LET Washington wage war, let Albany orchestrate budgets, let City Hall tend
to a million public-school students. The city's 59 community boards
preside over the small but important stuff of neighborhood life, from
unwanted parking meters to broken fencing to noisy bars.
And now the public can track the goings-on at the boards as easily as
they track bigger political issues. More than half the boards have Web
sites, and, in the Bronx, residents can keep tabs on all 12 of the
borough's boards at www.bronxmall.com/commboards, which offers, among
other features, blow-by-blow minutes from recent meetings.
These minutes provide a rare window on democracy with a really small d.
"When you start reading these minutes, boring though they may be, you
find out things about your neighborhood that you never knew existed,"
said Barbara Tallerman, creator of the Bronx Mall site, which is host to
the community board pages along with Adolfo Carrión Jr., the borough
president. "It's not fascinating reading, but stuff is in there that
Fun Amid the Formality
Mundane matters are the lifeblood of the community board. But Community
Board 4, in the southwest Bronx, found a way to add a little flair.
I met at the district office with Mr. Jose A. Rodriguez, board member,
in order to provide him with information and an orientation as it relates
to this community board and district. This was in preparation for a
parents' meeting at Taft H.S. at which he would represent the board
chairperson. Mr. Rodriguez realizes that he is an essential part of the
community board process and as such looks forward to making a positive
contribution to the workings of this board. You go, Mr. Rodriguez!
The Whys of Trash
Community boards have few formal powers. But they can ask questions,
like Community Board 4's query about why the police don't pick through
trash when they're looking for wrongdoers.
Questions were asked in regards to the garbage and debris strewn on the
Grand Concourse and throughout other neighborhoods, as well as about
litter baskets being filled with residents' garbage and status of the
pooper-scooper law. Chief Marino was asked to return to a future cabinet
meeting with information as to why they are not allowed to go through
garbage bags for the purpose of identifying name/address and the law which
prohibits them from doing so.
Sometimes, the minutes whisper of intrigue, as do these of Community
Board 2, in Hunts Point.
Committee requests that it be placed in the record that
"certain" board members contacted this committee to elicit
information prior to the decision that was made. No information was given
due to a vow of confidentiality that committee members took.
Santa and Security
John Fratta, district manager of Community Board 11 in the eastern
Bronx, described a meeting with the Fire Department and discussed the
board's new office security system. But he dealt with small matters, too.
John wished everyone a Happy Healthy Holiday Season and he thanked
"Santa Claus" (John Dennehy) for the poinsettia plants. John
reminded the chairs that if they are having a meeting in the office it is
their responsibility to pick up the key.
No one can escape housekeeping matters, and that includes Community
Board 9 in the southeast Bronx.
Francisco Gonzalez stated that there was a small article in the
newspaper regarding office equipment being labeled properly. We have our
items labeled but the items we could not label were items that were leased
that don't belong to Community Board 9. Also, he stated that we cannot
allow persons using our office when we are not here, due to the fact that
our copier and supplies are being used, copier is malfunctioning, cannot
use our copier for political use, things missing from the desks, etc.
But Community Board 9 has plenty of other concerns.
Abby from Jimmy's Restaurant on White Plains Road and Story Avenue
stated that she heard that IHOP is coming to the community and it will be
hurting business. She also has the diner on Castle Hill Avenue across from
Pathways for Youth.
The Name Game
How complicated is it to name a playground? Community Board 3, in the
southern Bronx, offers a glimpse.
The district manager stated that a letter has been sent to Patricia
Lawler, director at the Bronx Borough Management Department within the New
York City Housing Authority, regarding the protocol/procedures for
consideration given by the New York City Housing Authority for renaming a
community center or park on NYCHA grounds, on behalf of an individual
community resident who is presently deceased but who made a significant
contribution to the community. The district manager noted that he is still
awaiting a response to said letter and will disseminate the answer to the
community at large.
The Really Big Questions
Despite their modest agendas, the boards' district managers sometimes
wax eloquent, as Margarita Hunt-Tejada did at a meeting of Community Board
It is once again that time of the year when we should be especially
thankful for all things. We should give thanks for our blessings, but we
should also give thanks for the obstacles we encounter. They challenge us
and often make us grow. Some people may say that they almost never
experience pleasurable times. To you I say, look at those individuals
fighting our wars, those experiencing earthquakes, famine and other
adversities and then you can wholeheartedly say, thank you, God, for your