The Manhattan Community Board Application Deadline is March 1.
Each board has up to 50 members, all volunteers. Board members serve via staggered two-year terms, which means half must be reappointed or replaced every year.
All of those people are appointed by their own borough president. City Council members can recommend new applicants, but the final call rests with the BP.
You can apply to join Manhattan’s boards and get chosen without special access or expertise, you just need to care about the issues that are relevant and important to the community. There are no prerequisites to join a board, except that you must live or work in the district where you’d like to serve. Any city resident 16 or older can join. Community Boards are particularly lacking New Yorkers without cars on boards.
Here is what The City recommends:
- Attend a board meeting, or several, before you apply. It’ll give you a sense of how — and how well — your local board is run, and votes are cast. Many of the board applications ask whether you’ve attended meetings, so be prepared. Bonus points if you attend a committee hearing!
- A board application is a bit like applying for a job. You may be asked for a resume or references. Bear in mind, applications are subject to the Freedom of Information Law, meaning they could be made public down the line.
- Usually, new members “have an issue that’s hard in their minds that they want to deal with,” said Winfield — parks funding, or homelessness. But whatever it is, he tells new members: “Don’t lose it. Once you get on the board, keep that issue and join the right committee.”
- Don’t count yourself out. Boards don’t necessarily need experts, people of a certain professional class, or veteran movers and shakers. Washington said a community gardener with 20 hours a month to dedicate to the housing committee is worth way more than “the best accountant in the world” with only “two minutes a month.”
- That said, if you’re accepted, get ready to dedicate a good chunk of time to it, Washington said. He estimates it may take up between 10 to 15 hours every month between meetings and brushing up on the issues on the agenda. For super-members like Winfield, it’s even more. “It’s a lot of reading and it’s a lot of investigating,” Winfield said.
- Get ready for some… spirited debates! Much of board life is a bit mundane, or procedural, but when there’s a divisive issue on the agenda, it can get heated. Keep your cool — and bring snacks and water for occasional long meetings.
Many people looking to work in government or run for office in New York get their experience at a community board first. The proof is in the pudding: current Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, and former Speaker Corey Johnson all served as chairs of boards, in southeast Queens, Harlem and Chelsea, respectively.
“You learn a lot about the city government structure,” said Winfield. “It’s a learning place.”