Report: Community Boards Citywide Resisting Mandated Return to In-Person Meetings
There is a mutiny of sorts forming among leaders of the city’s 59 community boards regarding a mandate that in-person meetings resume next month. Some chairs are even vocalizing plans to defy state law to keep sessions online and COVID-safe.
After Governor Cuomo suspended in-person government meetings last year as part of his coronavirus state of emergency declaration, community boards migrated to internet video platforms such as Webex and Zoom to keep the process alive. It enabled the public at large to attend meetings from the comforts of home, without having to slog to some dimly-lit community room.
Once vaccination made such congregating safer (or so we thought), the state lifted the emergency order on June 24. Community boards were again required to follow the state’s open meetings law, which mandates public access to the physical premises of an official gathering.
Which brings us to the revolt.
With the return of full-time board meetings in September following summer break, many board members, all of whom are volunteers, are pleading with city and state officials to extend the online meetings. Citing the increased risks of in-person gathering.
Indeed, the risk is real. Two members of Community Board 2 – who were fully vaccinated – tested positive for COVID-19 days after the full board meeting in July. Board chair, Jeannine Kiely, revealed that info to Cuomo in an August 2 letter.
According to a report in THE CITY, all but one of Manhattan’s 12 community board chairs signed a letter to Cuomo, calling the open meetings law “antiquated” and requesting the governor work with the legislature to allow boards and other public bodies to continue to meet remotely.