Even as talks of reopening the city start to surface after months of lockdown, local community boards will continue to hold meetings via a web conferencing platform called WebEx for the foreseeable future. Celestina Leon, District Manager of Bushwick’s Community Board 4 says that although big events had to be canceled, the virus has allowed the board to better evaluate how they can be helpful on a district level, as the majority of proposals the board reviews have been put on hold.
“The board’s role is essentially to both monitor and inform the delivery of city services. We also have public hearings which are opportunities for the community to learn more about proposals that are coming from the city, ” says Leon.
Much has changed since physical distancing guidelines were put in place by the CDC. Leon says many of Bushwick’s largest events had to be canceled, “including a community Earth Day event, a church resource event, a deed fraud event, and our biggest annual event, the Shape-Up Bushwick Parade and Resource Fair.” The board is exploring alternatives such as digital workshops and events in their place.
On April 6th, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams tweeted confirmation that NYC IT and Telecom (DoITT) is providing a secure web conferencing platform called WebEx to all community boards.
“We’ve only had a few meetings online. The meetings are generally well attended, we estimate 60-80 depending on what the public hearing has on for that meeting.”
The board is now receiving more urgent requests for “for food and assistance with unemployment. Those individuals are either provided with information or referred to the appropriate entity depending on their circumstances.” Community Board 4 has many city agencies and community-based organization liaisons to whom they are referring.
Although it hasn’t been the easiest adjustment Leon says, “It’s been easier to continue assessing what’s happening on a district level in terms of the coronavirus because we don’t have to move forward any sensitive applications during a challenging time when we’re just figuring out how we’re going to be needed.”
If you’re interested in participating in the next community board meeting (they occur on the third Wednesday of every month at 6:00 PM EST), subscribe to information from the community board office by emailing [email protected] or call (718) 628-8400. Leon also recommends requesting to receive the board’s newsletter, now fully online, to stay up to date with all information.
Leon says, “We don’t know how long we’ll have the digital meetings, but I imagine as we continue having them, more people will learn about them and find a way to participate. I’m sure there are a lot of people who want to know what’s happening in Bushwick.”
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