Bensonhurstians brainstorm on participatory budgeting projects

November 30, 2012 Denise Romano
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Bensonhurstians met at P.S. 205’s auditorium on Thursday, November 15, for the participatory budgeting project’s first “Neighborhood Assembly.”

Councilmember David Greenfield is allocating $1 million of his discretionary budget to projects that those in his district would like to see come to fruition – one in each of the three neighborhoods his district encompasses. The project must cost more than $35,000 and less than $1 million and has to be a capital project, not something temporary.

Because his district is so widespread, Greenfield has designated Neighborhood Assemblies in Midwood, Borough Park and Bensonhurst and has promised that each group will get its own project. Groups from Midwood and Borough Park have already met; Bensonhurst’s previously scheduled meeting was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.

“We are trying to bring transparency to the budget process,” Greenfield explained. “We have already invested in schools and parks. But don’t worry if you have ideas. Just because we are improving [schools and parks] doesn’t meant that they don’t need more improvement.”

Pam Jennings of the Participatory Budgeting Project, a national organization that provides technical assistance to councilmembers across the country, was at the meeting to make sure everything ran smoothly. Greenfield is one of eight councilmembers offering this process to their constituents.

The attendees were broken up into two groups, who voiced ideas on what projects they would like to see in their neighborhood. Then, participants voted on what projects they liked best.

Bensonhurstians came up with dozens of ideas, including security cameras along shopping corridors, countdown clocks at busy intersections, improvements to Seth Low Park, speed bumps by schools, barriers in front of school buildings, a food pantry, repainting subway stations and new traffic lights.

One group had a six-way tie for top project. They include: a new playground at St. Athanasius for all children in the community; a cultural center with music and dance classes at East Fourth Street and Kings Highway; a senior center at 63rd Street and 23rd Avenue; scraping paint in N train stations; left hand/right hand turn signals at intersections along 65th Street between 20th Avenue and Bay Parkway, and busing to and from senior centers.

Greenfield said he would send a letter to the Department of Transportation to come and investigate the intersections in question.

“We don’t necessarily need capital money to fix those,” he explained, adding that this process can help solve minor community issues, thus providing more bang for the buck.

The second group had a three-way tie. Those projects include: a community garden in Seth Low Park; the removal of cement and installment of AstroTurf at Seth Low Park; and installation of protective bollards in front of P.S. 682 on Stillwell Avenue near Kings Highway.

At the end of the meeting, those interested in being “budget delegates” filled out surveys. Those selected to serve as delegates will meet with experts to make these projects into formal proposals between now and February.

Residents will hold a formal vote on projects sometime in March.

For more information on how the process works, visit www.PBNYC.org.


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