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published March 21, 2004

The Gettysburg Address, It's Not

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 is fascinating."

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.

Delectable Mysteries

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.

Office Headaches

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.

IHOP Worries

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 4.

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 tender mercies.

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