2003-11-07 / Community

Will 311 System Wipe Out Community Boards?

By Howard Schwach
Will 311 System Wipe Out Community Boards?

Will 311 System Wipe Out Community Boards?

By Howard Schwach

The district managers of several local community boards have charged that one goal of the city’s new 311 help system is to put the 59 community boards out of operation.

Community board district managers, including Jonathon Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14 that covers both Rockaway and Broad Channel, have traditionally enjoyed personal relationships with staff at city agencies and were generally able to resolve problems for local residents quickly and satisfactorily.

Some district managers, however, complain that the 311 system has cut them out of the loop.

"If this keeps up, we won’t even have direct contact with the people, which is how we get things done," said a district manager from Coney Island. "I still think that community boards are the answer because they provide a personal touch."

Jonathon Gaska agrees.

"Some district managers are afraid that the 311 system will be the end of the community boards, but I don’t agree," he told The Wave. "People still want the personal touch. If they call us, they can call get the name of the person they are talking to and can back and find out what happened if the problem is not resolved."

"The 311 system is not working all that well to begin with, and is a person loses their tracking number, there is no way that they can ever find out what happened if the problem still exists a few weeks later," he added.

The fifty-member boards are comprised of community activists, all appointed by the Borough President and local state legislators. They serve at the whim of those who appoint them.

While the members serve as advisors to city agencies in such matters as land use and budget, the main job of the board’s district managers is resolving problems that people are having with city agencies – exactly the role of the 311 system.

According to Gaska, the district managers were responding to a comment by Gino Menchini, the city’s director of technology and telecommunications, who said on the agency’s website, "We’re changing the way the government operates. The system of personal relationships will soon be coming to an end."

Gaska, however, says that he has no worries about his job or the role of the board.

"We will be integrated with 311 to assist our constituents," he says. "We will be around for a long time."

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