Laura Spalter has yet to physically preside over a meeting as chair of Community Board 8. But she's not only OK with that — she wanted it to continue. And thanks to Kathy Hochul, she got her wish.
The expiration of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's emergency order allowing government bodies like community boards meet through online videoconferencing platforms like Zoom expired last summer. And with the legislature not expected to return to Albany until January, Spalter and CB8 started booking venues for its September slate of meetings, like the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center and The Riverdale Y.
But now, those physical meetings are off. And beginning with Wednesday's executive committee meeting, CB8 is back to offering its gatherings online.
"We have been told that as a result of today's special session of the state legislature called by Gov. Hochul, remote meetings will be temporarily legal once again for community boards," Spalter told those on CB8's mailing list. "Starting immediately."
Kathy Hochul called both the Assembly and senate into a special session yesterday, tasked primarily with extending the coronavirus pandemic-era eviction moratorium. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the continuing federal moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only thing standing between tenants struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic and eviction was moratoriums enacted at the state level.
"Recently the Supreme Court rendered a heartless decision that blocked the Biden administration's eviction plan," Hochul told reporters on Tuesday. "Under my watch, here in the state of New York, we are not going to exacerbate what is already a crisis in terms of the homelessness problem. We are not going to allow people who — through no fault of their own — lost income, not able to pay, and facing eviction. We are not going to allow that to happen here in the great state of New York."
Hochul added other issues to the special agenda as well, including work to fully legalize marijuana, and also to extend the emergency exemption to the state's open meeting laws, no longer requiring voting members of a governing body to be physically present.
Lawmakers are just getting started on considering all of that legislation, but Spalter said she received word from the governor's office that community boards can jump in line and start meeting virtually once again.
Wednesday's executive committee meeting moves to Zoom, and can be accessed by clicking here beginning at 7 p.m. CB8 says it will roll out details on how to access remaining meetings for the month online in the coming days.
Although large portions of the state has reopened since the proliferation of vaccines to fight the coronavirus. However, a major surge in the more-contagious delta variant has caused some groups to hit the pause button on many physical returns.