Former Mayor Koch signed EO 6 to establish the Community Assistance Unit (CAU). This unit liaises with community boards, civic groups, neighborhood associations, and public and private agencies in order to address and bring to the attention of the Mayor and other appropriate City officials issues and problems of concern to communities citywide. It is also charged with carrying forward mayoral initiatives through direct contact with communities.
Former Mayor Dinkins signed EO 14 which delegated CAU, acting through its Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO), authorization to exercise all functions, powers, and duties regarding the issuance of street activity permits and assessment of fees for street festivals, parties, celebrations, fairs, and other events.
Former Mayor Dinkins reaffirmed EO 14 by signing EO 25, which further established the authority of CAU. It states that “a cornerstone of this administration is accessibility of government to our residents, responsiveness to suggestions and recommendations, and the encouragement of citizen participation in government.” Over the course of the next 15 years, SAPO remained within CAU.
The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) published Rethinking New York's Street Fairs”, a report which urged the city to make major changes to street fairs. One recommendations was that "vendors ought to be able to apply for street fair permits online, eliminating the need for entrepreneurs and business owners to waste hours dealing with the bureaucracy."
Former Mayor Bloomberg adopted CUF’s recommendation and signed EO 100, authorizing the formation of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (CECM). CECM will advance their technology use by developing a website to facilitate event permitting. CECM will serve as a repository of information about all upcoming and ongoing events regardless of event permitting agency, assist in the planning and execution process, coordinate among affected city agencies, inform elected officials, community boards and citizens of events in their neighborhoods, and advise the Mayor in the coordination of policies, procedures and operations related to the permitting, review and coordination of events and permitted activities.
Former Mayor Bloomberg signed EO 105 to update the name of the Community Assistance Unit to the Community Affairs Unit and clarified the duties and responsibilities of CAU. All functions and duties relating to SAPO permitting shall be undertaken by CECM. All staff of SAPO shall be housed within CECM.
CECM continues to streamline and digitize event processing, permitting, and policies in New York City.
One major step towards this innovation was the creation of the Citywide Event Management System (CEMS) database. This agency specific set of custom computer applications support event management and facilitates the flow of information between primary and support permitting agencies.
CEMS consists of an intranet database that serves as a central hub for event permitting information, e-apply websites that allow individuals to apply and pay processing fees for permits on-line, as well as a repository for information that is transcribed to the public via the nyc.gov street closure map.
Prior to CEMS, permitting agencies maintained their own permitting systems where event data was not readily shared between City agencies and the public. Allowing for numerous conflicts to exist between permitting agencies. Also proper support permits were not consistently obtained.
In 2011 CECM held a public hearing to propose amendments to street activity permit rules including reflecting the shift from CAU to CECM, include the new E-Apply system, updating the fees schedule to account for administrative and manpower costs, and simplify definitions and terms that are referenced within the rules to ensure applicants can understand and easily interpret SAPO rules.
In 2013 due to neighborhoods that were overly saturated in events and lack of city personnel resources, SAPO amended its rules to temporarily deny permits for street activities and street fairs not held in 2012. These new events would place an excessive burden on police resources and divert uniformed personnel from core crime fighting, public safety and counter terrorism duties.
In 2016 CECM held a public hearing and implemented a rule change for events held on pedestrian plazas, which included a tiered four level designation system (Level A, B, C, or D), longer deadlines and fee changes for plazas depending on size, usage, and borough.