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Community Boards Look Gentrification in the Eye & Don't Blink

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What's it like actually going to a community board meeting? Guest blogger Chris Carrara journeyed into the belly of the beast and files this report:

After feeling like the only old souls under the age of 30 in the East Village, we finally rounded up some neighbors to take them to their first one last month. Our building is directly across the street from a hastily-constructed skateboarding park that opened without any warning. It would be a topic of discussion at CB3's Parks and Recreation Committee April meeting. Many of the neighbors--some younger, some older, some having lived in New York for almost a decade--didn't even know there was any other means of addressing a noise problem other than a call to 311, but they'd soon be introduced to the bizarre world known as the Community Board meeting. Speaking in front of board members for the first time, though, is like descending into an alternate reality where everything you know about New York is wrong. Several neighbors spoke up about the skate park. The racket is non-stop on weeknights and starts at 10am sharp on the weekends. It is a quality of life issue, we argued. Those who work at home can't focus with the constant clapping of skateboards echoing off the pavement outside their windows. The management of the park opened it without any input from the neighbors--knowing full well that they would face opposition. These arguments fell on deaf ears. Why? Well, in the words of one board member, "20 years ago, we were talking about drug deals on this block. It should be a joy that we're talking about some kids making noise in a park." This statement was followed by applause from the committee. That's like applauding a recovering heroin addict for becoming an alcoholic.

At that point, we remembered the the subject of every Community Board's ire: young, employed, non-native New Yorkers. In other words, the new New York whose problems do not matter. Since Community Boards are an obscure and dumbfounding aspect of New York Government that are rarely publicized to anyone, a transplant and mere five-year resident couldn't possibly want to be heard. Without knowing past neighborhood issues, one's opinions on the current troubles mean nothing.

Community Boards are under fire for many reasons. Take, for instance, Community Board 1. "What a bunch of old cranks, " one neighbor complained after the meeting. "All these old timers they all think they're smarter than everyone else." One answer: "Yes. They are smarter than everyone else. After all, they elected Giuliani, Spitzer, and Sheldon Silver. They must know better than we do."

That's what it's like.
· Hey, CB1,Tell Us How You Really Feel [Curbed]