Important Board Half Empty
Did you know that there is a public board comprised of community residents that meets regularly to designate priorities for $450,000 in federal funding known as Community Service Block Grants?
If you did, you’re among the very few. The meetings of these entities, known as Neighborhood Advisory Boards (NAB), are not advertised, nor is the fact that almost any community resident age 18 or above can apply for the volunteer posts.
So, it’s not surprising that half of the seats on the local NAB (they are contiguous with community boards) are empty. Half of the 12 members of each NAB are appointed by local elected officials; the other half are picked by the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) which oversees the distribution of the CSBG money.
Bronxwide, only 60 of the 144 total NAB seats are occupied. That’s only 42 percent. And 80 percent of the seats that elected officials are responsible for are vacant.
The consequences of low participation are significant. In 2004, the NAB in Community District 7 distributed funds to organizations focusing on issue areas that many community leaders felt were not as needy as senior and immigrant services. The Bedford Park Multi-Service Center for Senior Citizens, and the community it serves, is still smarting from the NAB’s decision; it lost funding for its “friendly visiting” program that many seniors relied on, as well as transportation for the elderly.
DYCD told us it is in the process of a massive “recruitment drive” to fill all the NAB seats. We’ve yet to see any evidence of that. But we hope they take a multi-faceted approach by staying on top of politicians and educating the public in a number of ways about the existence of the NABs. They should issue press releases about meetings and application deadlines, encourage local politicians to put information in their newsletters, and talk about the role of NABs at community meetings.
Meanwhile, we’ll do our part to inform our readers about upcoming NAB meetings (there was one on July 25). If you’re interested in serving on the local NAB, call (212) 442-5880 or go to www.nyc.gov/dycd to download an application (just click on Neighborhood Advisory Boards at the left of the screen).
Dissing Bronx from Distance
Michael Hart, the Liberal Party candidate for state parliament in Burleigh, Australia, “has rejected suggestions that Burleigh is becoming the ‘Bronx’ of the city,” according to a local paper there.
“We are certainly having some trouble with out-of-control youth gatherings, but I don’t think we have reached that stage yet,” he told the paper.
It does sound like Bronxites touring Australia might want to steer clear of Burleigh rather than the other way around — who knows how out of control their youth are after all —but we know better than to disparage a community we’ve never been to.
This tired use of “Bronx” as a synonym for “crime” is all too common in the foreign media. A year ago, a Swiss paper ran an article about training sessions for people concerned about rising crime in Swiss cities. The headline was, “Safety lessons in a virtual Bronx.”
Obviously, the Bronx still has some work to do in updating a stale image that last resembled reality 25 years ago. But it would also be nice if journalists and politicians took a moment to do a little research before they insulted a borough of 1.3 million people that they’ve never visited. They could even learn a thing or two from us about public safety. The Swiss, the article said, are catching on to the idea of installing car alarms.
We look forward to hearing how that works out for them.
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