Jimmy Van Bramer today released a policy proposal to diversify community boards in Queens, following a recent report that senior residents are overrepresented in community boards across the borough. The report found that nearly two-thirds of all community board members in Queens are older than 55, and only seven community board members in Queens are younger than 25. The Queens Borough President’s office recently announced that a record number of people applied to join one of Queens’ 14 community boards this year, but that does not guarantee a more diverse board or that new members will be able to rise to leadership positions.
“Community Boards should reflect the diversity of the districts they represent, but the reality is they’re dominated by those who don’t,” said Jimmy Van Bramer. “The combination of a lack of term limits for board members and the historic pattern of reappointing members has had a net effect of sidelining younger, BIPOC, immigrant, and queer voices. As Borough President I’d take aggressive steps to make sure Queens community boards truly represent the people they serve.”
As a result of long-standing practices, boards tend to skew more conservative, with long-time gatekeepers dominating discussions around some of the most pressing issues facing Queens: Climate change and Vision Zero, Bike Lanes and parking requirements, affordable housing, homeless shelters, transportation — including bus lanes and comprehensive planning.
As Queens Borough President, Van Bramer promises to do the following to ensure a more diverse, empowered and representative Community Boards:
- Immediately eliminate automatic reappointments. These are two-year appointments which expire and are subject to reappointment, much like an elected official elected to a two-year term. Members will not automatically be re-elected.
- Recognize term-limits ahead of the charter-mandated changes. Any member who has already served over 10 years will be thanked for their service and encouraged to step aside and give others a chance to serve. Any member who has served 15 years or more on any community board will not be reappointed.
- New appointments must reflect the current makeup of any board catchment area. All boards must have gender equity and be truly representative of BIPOC, immigrant, LGBTQ/Queer, public housing and poor/working class communities.
- Every community board should have term limits for Chairperson and executive board positions. Some boards already do, but many do not and a Chairperson can remain for decades.
- All boards must have a detailed and professional job description for all employees including the District Manager, and must have an annual review process for all board employees.
- All boards must have a diversity, equity and inclusion committee dealing with external and internal matters.
- The City must better enforce ethics rules for community boards to ensure board members are complying and reporting their conflicts of interest.
- The Borough President’s office will create an independent screening panel made up of good government groups to review and recommend applicants for the job of board member.
- The Borough President’s office will conduct outreach, public awareness to recruit new members beyond making the application accessible online.
- The City must better fund community boards so they are able to function without having to raise funds.
As City Council Member, Van Bramer has been committed to diverse recommendations for Community Boards. Van Bramer recommended 23 of the current CB2 members:
- 12 women
- 14 people of color
- 7 Latinx
- 6 Asian
- 1 African American
- 1 LGBTQ member
Van Bramer also recommended eight members for CB1:
- 6 women
- 4 people of color
- 2 Asian
- 1 Latinx
- 1 African American