Big Shake-Up Ahead for Community Board 1 Committees

At a heavily attended meeting last September, CB1's Seaport Committee took up proposed changes to the land use review of Pier 17. With the dissolution of the Seaport Committee and two other geographic committees, issues like this one will be taken up by a new land use committee. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Feb. 28, 2017

Community Board 1’s long-standing committee structure, the only one quite like it in the city, is about to end.

For more than 30 years, many of the board’s committees have been divided according to Lower Manhattan neighborhood districts—Tribeca, the Seaport/Civic Center, Financial District and Battery Park City. A new reorganization of the board, to take effect on April 1, will do away with those committees except for the one covering Battery Park City. The Landmarks, Youth and Education and Quality of Life committees also will remain.  

A new Licensing and Permitting Committee will handle applications for liquor licenses, outdoor cafes and street activities. Currently, each geographic committee deals separately with those applications—many routine, some highly controversial—which now generate much of those geographic committees’ work. Two other new committees are Waterfront, Parks and Resiliency, and Land Use, Zoning and Economic Development. There will also be a new task force to handle “human and senior services.”

CB1 Chair Anthony Notaro, who announced the changes last week, said he wants the new arrangement to improve the way the public “navigates” the community board.  “So if someone has a problem or they are concerned about something, they will find it easier to say, ‘Ah, that’s where I’ll go for help.’” (Notaro said the Battery Park City Committee would continue to meet because of unique issues that arise between residents and the Battery Park City Authority, a government entity.)

A six-month analysis by the board staff of CB1 agenda items showed that most of the work being done by the geographic committees had to do with licensing and permits, Notaro noted. “The thinking here was we need consistency in all of our applications and stipulations and relationship with the [State Liquor Authority],” he said.

“Issues that are really big issues should concern us all in Lower Manhattan and it shouldn’t just be the Financial District versus Tribeca,” said Alice Blank, co-chair of the Tribeca Committee, “as if we’re closing our eyes to something that’s three blocks away.”

Other board members agreed. Patrick Kennell, chair of the soon-to-be dissolved Planning Committee, said the new structure “is going to make us more efficient and able to represent members of the community better.”

“You won’t have three or four different committees doing some of the same types of things so there will be more consistency in our interactions with city agencies,” Kennell said.

The hope is that all neighborhoods of the district will be represented on the new committees. “If the committees are set up in such a way so that people from each area are on those committees I think it could be a very healthy situation,” said Susan Cole, chair of the expiring Financial District Committee.

Community Board 1’s unusual committee structure dates back to the mid-1980s, said Paul Goldstein, who was the board’s district manager from 1983 to 2006.  “Certainly it was a different era where there was a ton of development going on in different parts of the district or urban renewal areas, and both the east and west side and Battery Park City was starting to get developed and the Financial District was the quietest district.” Goldstein said he came up with the idea of geographic committees, in part, to boost the lagging attendance at meetings. “Like it or not people tend to be interested in things closer to home so I think it worked well for a number of years.”

“But I understand that times have changed,” Goldstein added, “and just because it worked then may not mean that it’s the best system for today.”

CB1 will hold a special public meeting on Thursday, March 9, to discuss the new committee structure. The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. in the Manhattan Borough President’s office at 1 Centre St., 19th floor.