Are block associations worth the trouble?

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How much total do you plan to tip the building staff this year?

There was an interesting discussion on the Brownstoner forum yesterday about the value-add of neighborhood block associations.

Most commenters on the Brooklyn real estate website supported the idea and offered up some examples (summarized at the bottom of this post) of association accomplishments.  

But as some noted, an enormous and not-so-obvious benefit is that the block association is a critical point of contact for local community boards weighing approval of new businesses and developments.  

Without it, neighbors might not have a voice at all when it comes to major changes affecting quality of life and property values.

Writes one commenter:

When a proposal for a land use variance comes across the desk of the district office, one of the things noted is whether or not there is an active block association. Why? All too frequently, developers’ plans and the needs or appropriateness for community do not jibe.

The community board office will request that the developer contact the block association to inform them of their plans. Therefore, the block association has the opportunity for ‘input.’”

Another notes:

The CB's [community boards] will only deal with a viable, legal block association in some of the more important issues of land use, policing, violations, etc. They hardly ever deal with individuals, unless it's something huge or media worthy.

Since the CB is then the conduit to the elected officials and the city, the lines of communication are made much easier by the existence of a block association, and you might even get something you need done, done.

The CB's, as well as other city reps, can also disseminate information, proposals, even possible grants and programs and freebees through the block associations. (not too many freebees anymore, but good to be on the list). It definitely can be a positive asset.”

Similarly, said some but not all, when it comes to fighting neighborhood crime, calls to police from block association representatives are taken more seriously than calls from unaffiliated neighbors.

Some block association achievements mentioned in the discussion include:

  • Having trees planted on the block
  • Negotiating a discount for stair repairs needed on multiple brownstones on the block
  • Stopping a local private school bus from circling the block while waiting for parking
  • Throwing an annual block party
  • Enforcing pooper scooper laws
  • Holding an annual spring clean-up
  • Delivery of a dumpster from the Sanitation Department twice a year so neighbors can easily get rid of large items and debris

Read the whole discussion here.