Restructuring the New York City Government: The Reemergence of Municipal Reform

By Frank J. Mauro; Gerald Benjamin | Go to book overview

Community Governance: A Decade
of Experience

ROBERT F. PECORELLA

The New York State Charter Revision Commission (SCRC) of 1975, created immediately after a massive effort focused on decentralization and community control of the New York City government, was charged with increasing citizen awareness of and influence over the operations of the city. In designing the community-board system, the SCRC produced a form of decentralization that went far beyond any other such experiment in the New York City experience. That system coupled the notion of political decentralization with administrative decentralization.

The 1975 charter revisions created fifty-nine community boards, each with a maximum of fifty members selected by borough presidents and local city councilors. The boards receive expense-budget funding for such operating purposes as rent, office supplies, clerical assistance, and the services of a full-time district manager who serves at the pleasure of the board. The revised charter allocated to the community boards advisory responsibility in three major areas: local budget priorities, land-use planning, and service monitoring. The charter revisions provided a process for the boards to present proposals for inclusion in the city's expense and capital budgets, each of which was to be broken down by community districts. Community-board influence over land-use planning was codified in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which increased the importance of and standardized the process for board input on land-use matters. And the new charter augmented and standardized the boards' service-monitoring role through the establishment of district service cabinets, which formalized agency relationships with community boards. Moreover, the charter mandated coterminality of community and service districts, a reform intended to organize interactions between city officials and community representatives.

In evaluating community-board effectiveness since the adoption of charter reform, it is useful to separate the analysis into two periods. The first, from January 1977 to early 1982, was one of adjustment both for the community boards and

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