BY JOE MARVILLI
While politically-minded teenagers are usually involved in student government, they may be able to join community boards if a Queens assemblywoman’s bill passes.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Hillcrest) has introduced legislation that would lower the age requirement for community board members to 16 years old. The bill, numbered as A02448, reads that it “provides that members of community boards in NYC need only be 16 years of age to be appointed to such board.”
“The concept is something that I had been working on for a couple of years now,” Rozic said. “It comes out of an idea that Councilwoman Gail Brewer had and something that community boards across the City have been pushing for. It would allow the option of a councilmember to appoint a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old onto a community board.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Assemblymen Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), Keith Wright (D-Harlem), Karim Camara (D-Crown Heights) and Michael Benedetto (D-Eastchester). In the New York State Senate, the bill has been introduced by State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Eltingville). Numbered as S04142, it is co-sponsored by State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Inwood).
According to Rozic, the bill is in the Rules Committee as of press time.
“I think this opportunity lends to greater diversity, opinions and perspectives. It’s very helpful to have an understanding from someone who actually goes to school,” she said. “The earlier we get young people involved at every level of gov’t, the better it will be.”
The reaction to the bill among Queens’ community boards has been mixed, with many holding a negative outlook on 16-year-olds being members, though they do encourage youth involvement.
“Right now, the schools are not even teaching how government works. Two, there’s a lot of work involved. It’s not just coming to a meeting. These kids have school, they have exams. They can’t leave at 10 p.m. if something comes up,” Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7 said. ““I love the input of kids. I think they should get involved. But on the other side of the coin, it may not always work.”
“It’s nonsense. It’s meaningless. You’re trying to put people on the community board who can’t even vote yet,” Jerry Iannece, Community Board 11 chair, said. “If 16-to-18 year olds really wanted to be involved, they should join civic groups or become non-voting members.”
“Even though we do have some mature 16-year-olds, I think that’s pretty young,” Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, said. “How are they going to be acting members? They have to concentrate on their schoolwork.”
“When you have a 16-year-old, pretty soon the child would go away to college. I don’t know how that would work,” Community Board 8 district manager Marie Adam-Ovide said. “In any case, we welcome having a fresh look on things.”
Community Board 1 was more supportive of the legislation, while the Borough President’s office had a neutral standpoint.
“We would support that fully. You get a different point of view,” Lucille Hartmann, District Manager of CB1, said. “We had board members when they were appointed at 18. It’s good to learn what civics are and how the system works.”
“We haven’t signed on to the bill, but we’re not opposed to it. We’re going to wait and see what happens,” BP spokesman Dan Andrews said. “The Borough President would certainly embrace anyone at that age who wanted to apply for membership.”
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.