Community board appointments the way they ought to be

Community board appointments — in Manhattan, at least — rarely seemed to be made on time. The process would drag for a month past the April 1 deadline, if not longer. On top of that, vacancies on local boards often went unfilled the rest of the year — seeming to be left intentionally vacant in order to effect board dynamics and elections.

This all seems to be changing under the new Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer. Fulfilling his pledge that all Manhattan’s 12 community boards would be filled with the full number of 50 members each by April 1, Stringer has done just that. That, in and of itself, was a major step forward.

It was no small feat. Stringer did extra outreach to attract new people to join the volunteer boards. He revamped and expanded the application form. And, perhaps most important, he created a Community Board Reform Committee, an independent blue-ribbon panel to initially screen and rate the applications based on a set of criteria, including applicants’ community service and goals on the community board.

Board members seeking reappointment also had to go through this screening process — and, like new applicants, also underwent one-on-one interviews at the borough president’s office if they made the initial cut.

Stringer also promised to depoliticize the appointment process, bringing it out of the backroom and making it transparent.

On Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan, Stringer reappointed most everyone who reapplied and found five new members to fill vacancies. This board is working well and did not need shaking up. One of the two people not reappointed had attendance problems and there is little reason to suspect either decision had any political or payback overtones.

We think the appointment of a tenant leader from Independence Plaza, Diane Lapson, is an excellent idea since the complex represents such a large percentage of Tribeca’s population. Lapson has also been active on housing and Downtown environmental issues and we welcome her to the board. We don’t know the other four as well, but given they emerged from a well-run process, we expect they will also be good additions.

One of the appointees, Peter Glazier, owns Bridgewaters in the Seaport mall, and thus we presume he has developed a good knowledge of what hasn’t worked in the area in the past. His knowledge and experience may serve C.B. 1 well as members hopefully get to see soon what the mall’s new landlord, General Growth Properties, has in mind for the area vacated by the Fulton Fish Market.

Next on Stringer’s agenda is to give board members the tools on land use and zoning issues so they can have an impact on the important planning issues affecting Lower Manhattan.

This help is needed with all of the development being planned Downtown. As the borough president moves to Phase II, he has earned some trust for the way he handled Phase I.

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