Join Your Community Board

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.”

https://www.cb11m.org/

The Manhattan Community Board Application Deadline is March 1.

Holiday Lights Tonight

The 125th Street BID will light up West 125th Street tonight.

For more details on the festivities, see: https://harlemlightitup.vamonde.com/posts/event-details-turn-on-the-lights/10455/

Marilyn Monroe in Harlem

From the website: https://www.popspotsnyc.com/iconic_new_york_city_film_locations/

What the site doesn’t say is that one of her husbands – Arthur Miller – lived almost where the camera is, taking the photo. Miller was born in Manhattan and lived as a boy in Harlem in a spacious apartment overlooking Central Park. His father, Isidore, a Jewish émigré from Poland, owned a clothing business that allowed the family a certain level of luxury: three bathrooms, a chauffeur-driven car and a summer place in Far Rockaway. Before the stock market crash, the business began to fail, and so, in 1928, Isidore and his wife, Augusta — Izzie and Gussie — moved the family to the borough of churches and cheap rents – Brooklyn.

Arthur Miller wrote about the summer heat of New York, and how families near Central Park would cope in the New Yorker in 1998:

Before Air-Conditioning

The city in summer floated in a daze that moved otherwise sensible people to repeat endlessly the brainless greeting “Hot enough for ya? Ha-ha!”

By Arthur MillerJune 15, 1998

Exactly what year it was I can no longer recall—probably 1927 or ’28—there was an extraordinarily hot September, which hung on even after school had started and we were back from our Rockaway Beach bungalow. Every window in New York was open, and on the streets venders manning little carts chopped ice and sprinkled colored sugar over mounds of it for a couple of pennies. We kids would jump onto the back steps of the slow-moving, horse-drawn ice wagons and steal a chip or two; the ice smelled vaguely of manure but cooled palm and tongue.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Water Swimwear Shorts Female Pool Bikini and Vehicle
Photograph by Weegee (Arthur Fellig) / International Center of Photography / Getty

People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake. I can recall only white people spread out on the grass; Harlem began above 116th Street then.

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

Read classic New Yorker stories, curated by our archivists and editors.

The men sweated a lot in those lofts, and I remember one worker who had a peculiar way of dripping. He was a tiny fellow, who disdained scissors, and, at the end of a seam, always bit off the thread instead of cutting it, so that inch-long strands stuck to his lower lip, and by the end of the day he had a multicolored beard His sweat poured onto those thread ends and dripped down onto the cloth, which he was constantly blotting with a rag.

For the full essay, see: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1998/06/22/before-air-conditioning