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Community boards to meet and vote remotely

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The need for social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak won’t keep Downtown’s community boards from doing their work.

The all-volunteer Community Board 2 — which covers Downtown between 14th and Canal Sts., west of Bowery/ Fourth Ave. — won’t be holding its full-board meeting this Thursday evening at St. Anthony’s Church, at Sullivan and Houston Sts.

Instead, Carter Booth, the board’s chairperson, said that meeting — and all future ones until further notice — will be virtual.

Normally, board members can only legally vote on the agenda items if they are physically present in the meeting room. But Governor Cuomo signed an executive order on Jan. 30 declaring a disaster emergency in New York State due to coronavirus, then updated it March 7 to include, among other things, modifications to the Public Officers Law.

Cuomo’s executive order states that meetings of public bodies will now be allowed to “be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed.”

Asked what technology the board would use for Thursday’s meeting and who the camera would focus on at any given moment, Booth said some details are still being finalized, but the basic plan is in place.

“We will be using Zoom for members to interact,” he said. “I’m assuming the meeting will focus on whomever is speaking or presenting. Board members will be able to participate either by video or dial-in phone. We are still working out the details and will be sending out information on how the meeting will be made available to the public. Details for the meeting will be posted on Facebook, sent out by e-mail on Thursday and updated on the C.B. 2 calendar tab on our Web site.”

Full-board meetings usually start at 6:30 p.m. with what’s known as the public session, when members of the public can testify on local issues of concern. However, it wasn’t immediately clear if there would be a public session on Thursday, given the new remote meeting format.

After the public session, politicians or their aides typically give reports, after which the board starts weighing in on issues, such as applications for liquor licenses or renaming local landmarks, such as C.B. 2 did last month in voting to rename the J.J. Walker Playground ball field for the late youth sports coach Ray Pagan.

Community Board 3 — which covers Downtown east of Fourth Ave./Bowery and down to the Brooklyn Bridge — has its monthly full-board meeting scheduled for Tues., March 24. Susan Stetzer, the board’s district manager, said they are currently working out how to hold the meeting remotely.

“It is required that the public be able to watch or listen,” she said. “We are figuring out the best tool to accomplish this.”

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