November 2017
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MAS Welcomes the New Class

This month, the MAS Planning Center kicked off its fifth year of the CITI Youth Program with a new class of map technicians from all corners of the city. Forty New York City high school students are now embarking on year-long paid internships with their local community boards, presenting live, internet-based land use maps during community board meetings. Recently, with the help of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, the Planning Center was able to substantially expand the program in Manhattan — serving seven of Manhattan’s 12 community boards.

Since 2004, the CITI Youth Program has provided community boards with access to maps and city data through use of the myciti website, CITI interns are introduced to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and the many ways it can be used as a tool for community decision-making. The interns then have the opportunity to become map technicians for their local community board — projecting maps during community board meetings to help facilitate discussion. As CITI intern Jonathon Ruiz from Queens Community Board 7 in Flushing, Queens puts it,“Maps give the members a visual idea of the building and the area around it. A map encourages the members to more thoroughly question and understand the subject (at hand).”

CITI interns get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in their neighborhoods as board members discuss issues such as affordable housing, historic preservation, liquor licenses, transportation and public safety on a regular basis. Lee Drakford, an intern at Manhattan Community Board 10 in Harlem, is a student at the High School of Art and Design and plans to become an architect. Lee recently attended his board’s land use committee meeting where he learned about a new low income senior citizen housing development being proposed that caused concern for some board members. Lee explained, “One of the community board members felt the proposed building would destroy the original architecture of Harlem.”

Some CITI interns are surprised to learn about all issues affecting their neighborhood, however most are surprised to learn that community boards even exist. Alina Lee, an intern at Manhattan Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan was overwhelmed by her first meeting:

“I didn’t know that people could actually go to meetings to voice their opinions about the changes (that are happening).”

As a resident of Chinatown, Alina has seen many changes occur in her community. Because of her role as map technician, Alina is learning first hand the importance of civic participation and the power of using one’s voice to make a change. Alina is particularly interested in the preservation of the South Street Seaport as she recalls spending a great deal of her childhood there and is fond of the low rise character of the area.

This new class of CITI interns will work with their community boards for the full academic year, complementing their time at board meetings with monthly professional development workshops facilitated by Planning Center staff.