As we drift further and further into life lived online and the atomization and isolation that comes with it, perhaps a fix is to get more involved in the world around us.
A new lil hack by Brooklyn technologist Eric Butler called 59boards lowers the barriers to entry to do that by creating an easy-to-use map of all the community boards in the city, with a key of when they meet.
Community boards are one of the least visible arms of politics and public life in New York, but they’re a place where neighborhood residents can have a real voice in what the blocks around them look and feel like. There are 59 such boards in the city, 18 of which are in Brooklyn. The meetings are led the community boards, which are made up of 50 members who are appointed by the borough president or the district’s city council member, but the meetings are open to the public.
Butler told Technical.ly that he found out the Community Boards a few years ago, when he got involved in transportation advocacy.
“I found out that (unlike the majority of New Yorkers) many of the people on these boards don’t walk, bike, or use transit, and then use their power to delay important street safety improvement projects,” Butler wrote in a DM. “My hope is that by making it easier to learn that community boards exist and to keep track of when the meetings happen, more people will get involved and shift the conversation on these important issues.”
My own community board, CB1, covers Greenpoint and Williamsburg and meets for a general meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at the Swinging 60s Senior Center at Ainslie and Manhattan. Using the 59boards site, I can also find out when subcommittee meetings are held, such as the Women’s Issues Committee or the Transportation Committee, which meet March 19th and 20th, respectively.
So what do you do at a Community Board meeting?
“Like a town hall, public meetings of CB#1 are the place where interested citizens discuss community issues, monitor government performance, and advise city agencies on neighborhood matters,” according to the board’s site.
So, next time you’re feeling alienated and unfulfilled by your Instagram likes, consider heading down to the Swinging 60s Center to engage irl with the community around you.