The Participation Doesn't End at the Vote

The Participation Doesn't End at the Vote

Parks Department and budget delegates meet to discuss tree locations

Participatory Budgeting Update from Alix Fellman of the Parks & Recreation Committee

This time last year the people of our district came together for our first Participatory Budgeting vote, and selected seven projects to improve our community. One of the winning projects (the one I worked on) proposed to plant 100 trees on the most barren streets of our neighborhoods.

Over the past year the volunteer budget delegates from our district have been working with Parks Department staff and Councilmember Lander to get the trees off the drawing board and onto our streets. In the past month things have moved forward quickly, showing that the participation doesn't stop at the ballot box. We have been able to stay involved with implementing the project, making sure that the community’s vision is represented in the final product.

The leafier parts of our district are some of the most beautiful blocks in the city, but unfortunately too much of our district lacks greenery. During last year’s Participatory Budgeting effort, the people of our district decided to do something about it.

Given the chance to have the final say over a budget of more than $1 million, community members voted to use $100,000 to plant trees to brighten up the area and to install tree guards to protect young trees. We were lucky enough to have the Parks Department contribute an additional $85,000, allowing us to plant even more trees.

Trees clean the air, cool our streets, and make our neighborhood a more beautiful, desirable place to live. Tree guards, which will be installed around some of the new trees, will protect tree pits from dogs and pedestrians and give our new trees a chance to grow. We were so excited to see that the community cares as much about trees as we do and supported this project!

In developing the proposal, we knew we needed to understand the needs of the district as a whole. We visited sites in every neighborhood to come up with a list of areas that we considered “tree deserts” – areas with few trees or no trees. We especially wanted to see trees planted along Third Avenue, parts of Fifth Avenue, Church Avenue and Coney Island Avenue. Of course, each project has to be approved by the appropriate city agency, and we had to ask the Department of Parks and Recreation to review our list of proposed locations. In February, representatives of the Parks Department came to talk with us, and we were impressed by their enthusiasm for the project.

We met staff from the Parks Department and Councilmember Lander’s office on Third Avenue and Third Street, and together we all went to take a look in person at some of the sites we’d suggested. The Parks Department staff seemed sincere in their desire to support our efforts and honor the intent of the project. They explained the tree site selection process for us, saying that they avoid blocking doorways, interfering with underground utilities, or getting too close to streetlights or hydrants. When site restrictions prevented planting in some of the locations we’d highlighted, they worked cooperatively and respectfully with us to find acceptable alternative planting sites.

We feel good about the locations that were ultimately selected, and we are very excited to see 100 new trees in District 39. Taking part in this process we’ve been able to have a real – and visible – impact on our community, having had the chance to work with city agencies to make sure that the community is improving in the ways that we all benefit from. We expect that these trees will be planted in the next couple months, giving us all a chance to enjoy our leafier streets during the summer.

This year's Participatory Budgeting Vote will be April 2-7, 2013. Visit our vote page for details.