Sunset Parkers make history with participatory budgeting vote

April 21, 2014 Heather Chin
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The nervous and excited energy was overflowing inside the Red Hook Library on Tuesday, April 15, when Councilmember Carlos Menchaca announced the six winning projects in Council District 38’s inaugural round of participatory budgeting (PBNYC), also known as residents voting on how to spend a large chunk of Council money.

For Sunset Park and Red Hook residents, that amount was $2 million and the projects they voted to fund included:

  • NYPD security cameras ($600,000 and 1,890 votes) along 6thth and 8th Avenues between 42nd and 62nd Streets;
  • street resurfacing in Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights and South Park Slope ($350,000 and 1,070 votes);
  • a public community room at the Sunset Park Library ($60,000 and 951 votes);
  • improved technology at P.S. 15, P.S. 24, P.S. 503, and M.S. 821 ($67,500 and 812 votes);
  • air-conditioning for P.S. 10 and P.S. 15 classrooms ($400,000 and 526 votes); and
  • a community garden adjacent to the Red Hook Library ($85,000 and 486 votes).
  • “This is a historic day for our district,” enthused Menchaca. “We have empowered our residents to shape the improvements they want to see in their neighborhood schools, parks, streets and libraries.”

    On top of that, Menchaca noted that residents set two new records in the city’s three-year history of PBNYC: one for voter turnout, bringing out 2,909 residents, and one for ballots cast in a language other than English—two-thirds of District 38 voters voted in Spanish and Chinese.

    The chosen projects display a clear desire for public space and safety, as well as amenities for youth. The 19 projects on the ballot also reflected this shared concern, offering up ideas for a public basketball court, street lights, school bathroom renovations and trash and recycling bins along commercial corridors.

    “Before participatory budgeting, I never thought about getting involved in local government,” said voter Lydia Bellahcene, “yet here I am, fighting for what our community needs.”

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