City gives CB8 green light to search for new digs

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Pop the bubbly. 

After multiple past rejections, Community Board 8 has finally received permission from the city to look for a new home base away from Riverdale Avenue — although move-in day is still a long way off.

In the meantime, though, CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty couldn’t be happier.

“That’s the first step, the green light to go ahead,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful.”

Last September, Ginty wrote a letter to elected officials — including borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. and councilmen Andrew Cohen, Fernando Cabrera and Ydanis Rodriguez — asking for their support in her push to get a move approved not just by the city’s administrative services department, but also by the management and budget office, the first deputy mayor and the budget director.

“We have been dealing with an important issue for Community Board 8 for some time now with no success,” Ginty said. 

CB8 wants to move from its current location at 5676 Riverdale Ave. — which Ginty describes as the distant northwest corner of the district — into a more central spot in order to better serve its residents. Its small, windowless space just south of West 259th Street has served as the board’s office since 1984.

But over the 33 years since, the district has grown and the population has shifted. The central part of the district — especially east of the Major Deegan Expressway — has become much bigger. 

CB8’s epicenter is now the Broadway commercial corridor from West 225th to West 242nd streets, which is right where CB8 wants to relocate its offices. If it can’t be that particular stretch of Broadway, Ginty wouldn’t mind looking at other major cross streets like West 231st, West 238th, or West 242nd. 

The corridor, Ginty noted, is well served by public transportation, including the 1 train line as well as several local and express buses.

CB8’s current space is less than 1,300 square feet, Ginty said, which is too small to hold a board meeting or even committee meetings, where people from the community voice concerns and discuss local issues like crime, transportation problems or parking rules. As a result, CB8 must search for meeting locations all over the district that are not only big enough to accommodate a sizeable group, but also easily accessible.

“That space is like a little hole in the wall,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “It’s horrendous.”

As for why two previous requests to find a new space were rejected, Ginty isn’t certain — all she knows is she was exasperated from what had become to seem like an impossible task. 

“If you can put yourself into our shoes and see what it feels like to constantly get nos — it’s very, very frustrating,” she said.

In August 2015, CB8 requested the city’s administrative services department approve a move and start a search for a centrally located site, Ginty said, but the following January, the management and budget office denied it, saying CB8’s request didn’t meet health or safety criteria as an immediate reason to move. 

But this rejection was moot, Ginty said, because CB8 isn’t seeking a new location for “health” reasons but to better serve the community. 

CB8 tried again in September 2016 only to receive a memorandum last February from First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and budget director Dean Fuleihan stating no new leases would be advanced without express written sign-off of the first deputy mayor and budget director themselves.

From the beginning of her tenure as the recently elected CB8 chair, Ginty has made finding a new office space a top priority.

Now that the city has approved the move, the search for an actual space has begun, and the city has identified several potential locations, according to communications director Jacqueline Gold. The next steps are to refine the list, and once a location is selected, negotiate with the landlord.

“We have to find a site that’s agreeable to us and to the city,” Ginty said. “They have certain parameters and requirements, and we have certain desires we’d like to accomplish by the move. We need it to function as a true community board office, and location is the No. 1 priority. And then we’ll deal with the details.”

Neither the city nor CB8 would identify precisely where any of the potential new locations are, and it’s still way too early to talk about when the moving trucks would arrive.

“There’s still going to be a lot of time before we do it,” Ginty said. “It isn’t snap your fingers and it’s done.”

One step, known as the uniform land use review procedure, could take more than 150 days.

“But I’m less worried about that,” Ginty said. “I have my green light and I can’t tell you how important that is. Without that, we have nothing.”

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GBD 10463

This is long overdue. CB8 had (many years ago) a really small office in the RKA Academy/JHS 141, then moved to larger quarters on 233rd Street between Broadway and Kingsbridge Avenue. Moving back to that area makes a lot of sense, with its strategic transportation hub as well as the Board area's demographics. Given the amount of vacant space in the neighborhood, there must be something suitable at a reasonable rent.

Friday, December 1