Participatory Budgeting Experiment Enters the Home Stretch

In the Press

Participatory Budgeting Experiment Enters the Home Stretch

Participatory budgeting expo
Georgia Kral

Voters will soon judge New York City’s first experiment in participatory budgeting:  between March 25 and April 1, residents in the four participating New York City Council districts will cast their votes on the capital projects they deem most important for their community.

The four Council Members involved —Brad Lander (District 39), Jumaane Williams (District 45), Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8) and Eric Ulrich(District 32)— shared the projects that will be voted on with MetroFocus.

Over the last six months, thousands of resident volunteers have met to identify and discuss potential projects, and each of the council district groups has honed their lists to 15-20 eligible projects.

Who can vote?

Anyone who is 18-years-old and resides in one of the districts, regardless of voter registration or immigration status.

The Council Members have pledged approximately $1 million from their capital budget;  these funds are dispersed through their discretionary budgets and are allocated by the Council Speaker each budget cycle. The amount each Council Member receives in capital funds varies, but can be $4 to $5 million, reported City Limits.

The point of participatory budgeting is that district residents decide how to spend $1 million dollars, not the Council Members. This kind of democratic process began in 1989  in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and has since spread to roughly 1,000 cities worldwide.  How many New Yorkers can join this experiment?  While 6.4 million are 18 and older, these four districts combined are home to 478,000 of them.

“This process opened my eyes, and allowed me to meet and talk with people I never would have met before,” said Agnes Rivera, 61, a Harlem resident and former human resources administrator who was actively involved with the participatory budgeting process in District 8.  Ms. Rivera  is a member of Community Voices Heard, a group that works to improve the lives of people on welfare and in low-income communities.  She added,  “We as a people get to make the decisions about what needs to get done in our communities.”

Christine Petro, 31, commutes to Harlem to work in the education division of the Abyssinian Development Corporation and joined the District 39 group so she could get involved where she lives, in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

“I was not so familiar with my own neighborhood, and I wanted to learn a little bit more and get more connected,” said Petro, who wants to fund a neighborhood compost pile near the Gowanus Canal.  Petro said being heavily involved in participatory budgeting took a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it.

“It’s definitely changed my perspective about what I can do and what’s possible,” she said.

When we checked in with the Council Members in December, we heard some of the “quirkiest” and “boldest” ideas put forth by residents, and some of those projects have made the final list.  (Perhaps not surprisingly, the Gowanus Canal gondola, called the “Gowandola,” didn’t make the cut.)

Voting locations and sample ballots are available on the Participatory Budgeting NYCwebsite.

Council Member Brad Lander, Democrat for the 39th DistrictThe 39th District covers many South Brooklyn neighborhoods including Park Slope, Kensington, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Gowanus.

Bathroom Renovation for the Children of PS 124

JHS 62 media center upgrade for journalism program

PS 131 Auditorium Project

PS 39 Cafeteria Soundproofing Project

Technology: A Better Future for PS 154 / PS 130 Students

Brooklyn Neighbors Composting

Body Weight Fitness Equipment Area

District 39 Tree Planting

Pigeon Plaza Greenstreet Rehabilitation

Prospect Park Pedestrian Pathway Rehabilitation

50th Street Repaving Project

Pedestrian Hazards at the Prospect Expressway

Intersection Safety Improvements

BusTime “count-down” clocks

Help Points at F/G Subway Stations

Flowers: First Fix For Flooding at Ft Hamilton F/G

Council Member Eric Ulrich, Republican for the 32nd DistrictThe 32nd District includes parts of the Queens waterfront and the neighborhoods Breezy Point, Rockaway Beach, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven, among others.

Gazebo/Bandstand/Outdoor Performance Space on Shorefront Parkway

Knights of Columbus, Rockaway Council—Handicapped Bathroom Upgrade

Library Renovation/Upgrade at Peninsula Branch

Library Vending Machine in Breezy Point

Technology Upgrades at PS47, PS317/MS318, PS114

Six Argus Security Cameras for100th Precinct

Five ATV Vehicles for 100th Precinct

Cascade (Oxygen Refill) System for Volunteer Fire Departments

Pagers for Four Volunteer Fire Departments

Water Pump for Volunteer Fire Departments to Alleviate Flooding

Dog Run at Shorefront Parkway and Beach 93rd Street

Additional Trash Receptacles along Boardwalk (Beach 73rd-126th Streets) and at Parks in Broad Channel

Playground Safety Resurfacing at Beach 74th Street and Beach 107th Street Playgrounds

Seven Shade Structures at 17th Road Park in Broad Channel and along Boardwalk/Shorefront Parkway

Water Installation at Freeway Dog Park

Year Round Heated Bathroom and Changing Station at Beach 86th Street on Boardwalk

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Democrat for the 8th DistrictThe 8th District covers parts of Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, primarily East Harlem and Mott Haven.

Installation of Security Cameras at the Jefferson Houses

Playground Improvements at the Millbrook Community CenterOff-Grid Solar Powered Greenhouse at Millbrook Houses 

Designated BBQ Area at Millbrook Houses

Security Upgrades at UPACA Senior Center

Roof Repairs at UPACA Senior Center

Transportation for Meals-on-Wheels Delivery Van

Viaduct Lighting along Park Avenue viaduct from 102nd Street to 110th Street

Renovate & Improve Outdoor Seating Area at Gaylord White Senior Center

Lights at Jefferson Park

Skate Park at Jefferson Park

Theatre Upgrade at Children’s Aid Society/Fredrick Douglass Center

Construction of a Headquarters for Harlem RBI School and Dream Charter School

Pothole Repairs on First and Second avenues

New Technology for NYPL Aguilar Branch

10 Smartboards, 25 Desktop computers and carts for 30 laptops for Central Park East High School

150 new laptops, 5 laptop carts, 6 new projectors and 6 new printers for Renaissance Charter HS for Innovation

Replacement of 100 seats in the school’s auditorium, 20 seats in the music rooms and stairwell banisters at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics High School

105 laptop computers, 3 carts to store the laptops and 65 smart boards for Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics HS Technology

3 laptop carts, 90 laptops, 3 new printers and a new smart board for Mott Hall II

Air-Conditioned Gymnasium for P.S. 163

Science Lab for P.S. 171

30 computers, 100 laptops with carts, 4 printers and 10 Smart Boards for Young Women’s Leadership School

Regrading the sports field in Poor Richard’s Playground

Upgrades to the Jefferson Park Dog Run

Renovation of the Booker T. Washington basketball court

Renovation of the basketball court at Douglass Houses Stadium Court

10-Foot Pollution Barrier Wall at PS 206 Playground

Ultrasound for Metropolitan Hospital Center

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Democrat for the 45th DistrictThe 45th District covers the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Flatbush and Flatlands, and parts of Canarsie and Midwood.

Community Resource Center for Job Development and Programming in East Flatbush

Update the HVAC System at the Clarendon Library

Air Conditioning at PS 198

E-Tech campus for non-profit community organization CAMBA  

E-Tech campus at PS 181 

E-Tech campus at PS 109

Green Marketplace at Midwood High School

Security Cameras

Lighting in Parks

Sidewalk Bump-Outs

Field Lights at Tilden Educational Campus Field

Performing Arts Studio at Tilden Educational Campus Field

Track Extension at Tilden Educational Campus Field



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