Community Board 12 Says City Ignores Communities’ Stated Budgetary Needs

Community Board 12 Says City Ignores Communities’ Stated Budgetary Needs

By Yehudit Garmaise

Does NYC’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) actually allocate the city’s massive $102.7 billion budget based on the voluminous data the agency asks each of the city’s 59 community districts to compile and submit in their required District Needs Statements?

For Community Board 12 and many other boards as well, “The OMB’s response is always ‘No to everything,’ said one participant in last night’s CB12 monthly meeting on 13th Avenue. “We repeatedly hear that our requests for funding, such as to pay more attention to Ocean Parkway, to conduct traffic studies, and to install more street signs are ‘not in the budget this year.’”

When federal funding for improving infrastructure nationwide passed last year, CB 12 Community Coordinator Gittel Fekete, who has served as the unofficial project manager to create the board’s District Needs Statement for the last four years, said she attempted to secure funding for 37th Street between 14th and 15th Avenues to create sidewalks, which are completely absent, and other necessary reconstruction.

Despite Fekete’s exhaustive reporting about the financial needs of the district that would benefit the community, she called the process “an exercise in futility,” which is evidenced by the OMB’s lack of responsiveness to the board’s requests. 

“The OMB repeatedly says our requests are ‘not recommended for funding,'" community board members say. "What we hear is, 'There isn’t enough money in the budget,’ 'Denied by the Borough Commissioner,” or any other way of saying, 'No.’"

“It is obvious from the dismissive responses we get from the city’s Department of City Planning that our district’s needs likely aren’t even read, much less even considered,” said Fekete, who works overtime to compile from various agencies information about Boro Park’s health needs, literacy rates, sanitation issues, poverty levels, and eligibility for The New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS), American Community Surveys, and U.S. census data.

In addition, Fekete and Community Board District Manager Barry Spitzer, who both live in Boro Park, include in their District Needs Statements real input from their families, friends, and neighbors, who regularly tell them how the community needs assistance. 

“We get paid so much time for this project, and we put in so much energy, but we know that the process of compiling district data is a farce,” said Fekete, who pointed out that she sees that when the city does respond to her requests for services and information, the city uses outdated contact information, which Fekete is careful to update up until the date she submits her requests. “The OMB is just wasting our time.”

“I see that the city has phone numbers for agency members who are retired,” said Fekete, who also is careful to update her list of requests for the community, while also keeping in mind new city, state, and federal legislation that would affect them.

“We never copy and paste our reports from the year before,” Fekete said. “We reconsider and edit every single item on our lists to best reflect our city’s needs, and then we reconsider our list to reflect city policy and legislative updates.

“We also consult the city charter to investigate the city’s mandate on each issue.” 

“Everything you said is true,” corroborated Spitzer after Fekete spoke.

Spitzer added CB 12 is not the only board to get demoralizing responses from the OMB.

 “I spoke to members of a couple of other boards who said that they may not want to participate anymore,” in the OMB’s requests for data about district needs “because of the [disappointing] responses we get,” Spitzer said.

While boards citywide feel that their painstaking efforts to create accurate and fair District Needs Statements are ignored by the OMB, former CB12 Chairman Alan DuBrow said with sympathy, “I can appreciate what you are going through.

“This has been going on for 30 years or more. As a former chairman of the community board, we would go to these meetings, meeting with all the city’s agencies, and it was futile. It is nothing new. They have been ignoring District Needs Statements for forever.”

Fekete ended by saying the Community Board members could better participate in her OMB report by communicating by e-mail or phone with her as their jobs involve serving as the “eyes and ears of the community.”

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