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Progressive Caucus, Including Van Bramer, Calls for Community Board Term Limits

Community Board 2 meeting on Sept. 6 (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Oct. 22, 2018 By Christian Murray

The calls to impose term limits on community boards are about to get a whole lot louder.

The Progressive Caucus, which consists of 22 council members including Jimmy Van Bramer, are about to back a proposal that would limit community board members to four consecutive two-year terms.

Term limits for board members, along with a provision to make boards more representative of their communities, will appear as items on the general election ballot on Nov. 6. Currently, board members serve two-year terms and are re-appointed without limit.

Van Bramer said he and his fellow progressives back term limits in the belief that they give more people a chance to have a say and help ensure that a board’s make up reflects the community.

“It’s important that a diverse group of people get their voices heard and reflect the changing demographics,” Van Bramer said. “We miss out when these people who have different ideas and views are shut out because people stay on the board for decades.”

Most community boards, which have about 50 members, typically have low turnover. For instance, Van Bramer said that there are about four to five vacancies per year on Community Board 2, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City.

Van Bramer is in charge of filling half of those vacancies each year, and said he has a list of about 20 people who are qualified to join the board. Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President, appoints the other half, and is likely to have a list of qualified candidates, too, Van Bramer said.

The Council Member, who has been in office since 2010, said he is responsible for the appointment of 23 board members so far. Katz, who took office in 2014, has appointed about 10 members to the board, he said.

Meanwhile, 16 board members have been on CB2 for more than a decade, and 14 of those members are white. Of the 23 people Van Bramer has appointed to the board, he said 14 are minorities and two are part of the LGBT community.

Despite the turnover and the influx of more members of diverse backgrounds, statistics indicate that about one-third of the board has not changed due to the lack of term limits, which block opportunity for others, Van Bramer said.

But those who support the status quo argue that it is foolish to force out long-serving members, believing the move will weaken boards, since many of these members have developed institutional knowledge on areas related to real estate development.

Those concerns are shared by Katz and three other borough presidents, who wrote in an August letter that boards would suffer when reviewing zoning and land use matters among other fields.

“To impose term limits on these members serves to further empower real estate developers and the lobbyists and technical advisers who appear on their behalf before the community boards,” the letter reads.

Jeremy Rosenberg, who is currently on Community Board 2, disagreed with this opinion, as he wrote in a recent op-ed. He told the Sunnyside Post, additionally, that new members come with knowledge. “The new appointments are not inexperienced,” he said. “They are civic leaders and know and care about the community.”

Furthermore, if the proposal were adopted, board members could be reappointed after stepping aside for two years.

Meanwhile, Community Board 2 member Moitri Chowdhury Savard is stepping down in April after serving 10 years, basing her decision on the belief that other people should have a chance to weigh in.

The new term limits provision would start in April 2019 if voted in next month. Terms served prior to the new policy would not count toward the term limit.

Van Bramer said he does not support the argument that boards would suffer due to the loss of institutional knowledge.

“None of us are indispensable and turnover is healthy,” Van Bramer said.

He then cited a famous Charles de Gaulle expression: “The cemetery is full of indispensable people,” he said.

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29 Comments

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sad

JVB believes getting rid of everyone who has lived here longer than he has is the way to progress. His ambition blinds him.

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Socialism is scarrry!

Does the Progressive Caucus advocate that the means of production, distribution, and exchange be owned by the community as a whole, or do you just have no idea what “socialism” means?

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Anonymous

TO: Socialism is scary
The answer to your questions is: yes
You are either a socialist advocate or you need to wake up.

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Patricia Dorfman

NO TO TERM LIMITS

This measure appears to be a method to oust members more easily who have had the courage to do what is right. Members are not paid, and not elected. “Term limits” sounds helpful, and is a good policy for electeds. But in this case, it is just a way for council members to have less opposition and more power.

The decisions of the community boards are ADVISORY, which is how JVB and mayor ignored them on MIH and DOT plan. 51 out of 59 community boards citywide opposed MIH (unaffordable affordable housing due to corruptly inflated AMI), but the Council and Mayor passed it anyway. 27 to 8 was the vote at CB2 on the DOT plan, but the Councilman and Mayor moved forward anyway.

REBNY, the real estate lobby, is running NYC at the moment, and the pressure on all our electeds, state and city is crushing. They are told, you do what we want, or your career is over.

The reason for City Council and REBNY to call for term limits is to remove those opposed so that there is the appearance of not going against one’s own community wishes when one is, in fact going against the community wishes. The elected want do what the people don’t want, and now don’t even want to hear objections.

So CB members here not falling in step are to be axed when possible in easier way with this measure. Some were appointed by electeds prior, or going with their own views and this courage is now to be punished. CB terms are two years and can already be not renewed if desired by Councilmember or Boro President.

Both JVB and Katz have been careful about making sure to add a diverse group. They have done a pretty good job. Diversity is not a charge that makes sense with the current council here. Perhaps more Spanish speaking or Republicans might be considered, if true diversity is wanted.

The CB remains the last “official,” public, open forum for dissent, even if ignored, and this measure will remove its credibility.

CB2 has some village elders with institutional knowledge who have proven they will do right by the community and city. If the entire CB is to become those only favorable to councilmembers on all issues, why have a community board at all?

(I have never served on a CB, nor have I asked to, nor am I Spanish-speaking or Republican.)

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Seriously? Nailed it!

Wait, is this rambling incomprehensible rant serious? Is it the best possible endorsement of community board reform yet? Both?

Wow! Patricia’s detractors are getting too good at parody. This is comedic gold!

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Parody not necessary!

Sadly, this is not parody. She actually posted this on Facebook. Posting it here may well have been done by someone who meant to poke fun, but the words and misunderstanding of politics are all 100% true.

And yes, it is a clarion call for reform when someone like this wants the status quo.

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Michael

The issue to many of us isn’t that we feel like we aren’t being heard by the city council, but rather that the community board isn’t representing many of us in the community. Term limits, I feel, do help maintain equal representation of an every diversifying community.

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Groucho Marx

Case in point: when the argument over a plan turns into a contest over neighborhood tenure and failing that into a straw man argument about the behavior of cyclists you know it’s time to change a broken system. Do not mistake the majority of the people riled up by Pat, Manny, Gary etc. for the majority of the neighborhood.

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Lionel Q. Deveraux

The community boards are useless, why have them in the first place? The community board voted for no bike lanes on Skillman Ave. DeBlasio said screw the community board and did it anyway. Van Bramer was first against but when DeBlasio said that it was a done deal, Van Bramer put his tail between his legs and was for the bike lanes. Van Bramer is right about term limits, but wrong about which body of government should have them. Time for a term limit conversation regarding the City Council. If anyone needs term limit reforms, it’s the City Council! Van Bramer will have “served” (himself) eleven years when his term is finally over in 2021. Too long by half!

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VelvetKnight

City Council is an elected position. If you think he’s out of touch, you can vote him out of office.

You can’t vote for or against community board members who no longer represent the community.

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Groucho Marx

The ridiculous actions by the board in regards to the street safety plan- the arguments against statistics, the denial of the efficacy of proven safety improvements, the attempt to propose no-build alternatives, and mostly the tacit approval and acceptance of an extremist group representing a minority of the community who were against any kind of plan- were what rendered the board useless.

A vote to reform boards would see and end to the Denise Keehan Smiths of the city in favor of younger, more vibrant, more compromising, and ultimately more useful members would return boards to relevance.

A vote against reform is a vote for continued impotence because you feel the board represents you, even if you and they do not represent where the city is, and more importantly where it is going.

So the choice becomes, do you want something useless that’s in your pocket? Or something useful that you may not agree with but may have a fighting chance to do its job and represent your voice?

The boards as currently composed are not representative. An irrelevant board serves no one, as you recently learned. Will you make the right choice on Election Day?

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Mongoose

You could not be more wrong. The majority of people in our neighborhood were AGAINST the new bike lane being installed. Were you at the CB2 meetings? I guess not. Most of the bikers there did not represent Sunnyside, ‘biked in’ by transportation alternatives. It has thus far been a huge mess. The few bikers that do use them do not understand the rules of the road. Here is lesson #1, a RED light means STOP.

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JG

The leadership of CB2 represents a small group of locals that they grew up with to the detriment of progress in the neighborhood. Time for them to go.

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WeSeeRightThroughYouJVB

Funny that a man who took advantage of a loophole in the term-limit law to serve in his current third term, (and who voted himself a 30% salary increase!)should sponsor a law that would limit people who serve without pay to terms that are four years shorter than his. I call BS! My grandma would have said “What unmitigated gall!” Hypocrites never look in the mirror, I guess.

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greg

Yes to term limits. As far as institutional knowledge, it was obvious that none of the leadership of CB2 had read the the DOT’s mission statement before they started their divisive campaign against street safety improvements. They stood up for a small vocal minority and showed they are out of touch with a changing neighborhood.

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Gardens Watcher

There is a small vocal minority. That thrives on vitriol. Problem is they are not local. And they have multiple screen names.

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