New York law lets 16- and 17-year-olds serve on community boards
NEW YORK — Rashana Jackman isn’t old enough to vote in an election, but she could soon have a vote on a city-appointed board that takes influential stands on neighborhood issues.
At 17, the Brooklyn high school junior is considering applying to serve on her community board under a new state law that lets 16- and 17-year-olds join the panels that function as front lines of local government in the nation’s biggest city. The advisory but oft-heeded groups opine on zoning changes and liquor license applications, consult on city budgeting for local projects and serve as conduits for community concerns.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to make a change in my community,” said Jackman, who’s interested in education, health and social services in the diverse Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
In allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to hold up to two of each board’s 50 seats, New York is among communities nationwide giving school-age people more of an adult-sized say in government. The idea has sparked debate over whether teenagers are prepared to weigh issues and regulations that can elude adults.
Teens have occasionally been tapped for New York’s community panels in the past.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer was 16 when appointed to a community board in 1977, an experience the veteran politician says “has stayed with me my entire career.”
“Through a teenager’s eyes, you were really part of the government. You had a formal role in decision-making,” he said.
But members generally have been 18 and older — usually far older.