Getting out the vote for participatory budgeting in Sunset Park

November 4, 2014 Heather Chin
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Participatory budgeting (PBNYC) is returning to the 38th Council District and that means that residents of Sunset Park and Red Hook get to decide how to spend another $2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Like last year, the funds are part of Councilmember Carlos Menchaca’s discretionary funds, which he can use to do anything from adding air conditioners in classrooms to resurfacing broken streets to building a community garden at the Red Hook Library.

Those examples were just three of the six projects voted for by residents last year. The others were NYPD security cameras along Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues; a community room for the Sunset Park Library; and improved technology for P.S. 15, P.S. 24, P.S. 503 and M.S. 821.

“[Last year,] over 3,000 District 38 residents cast their ballots in our inaugural year of PBNYC, setting a new citywide record for the highest voter turnout,” said Menchaca on Monday, October 27 to about 100 people inside the Sunset Park High School auditorium. “We’re telling a story about what our needs are and we can take this data to the city to show that people are speaking out.”

Last year’s turnout also set a citywide record for most ballots cast in languages other than English – two-thirds of participants voted in Spanish and Chinese.

Community advocate and PBNYC volunteer organizer Jimmy Li was one of those voters. “I was so excited, went to many meetings and am living PB,” said Li of his successful efforts to educate and encourage immigrant voters to vote. “We have to get more people living PB. Maybe we can get more library access for Eighth Avenue.”

Sunset Park mom Laura Espinoza is also excited to vote for community projects again.

“Last year, I had an idea from my daughter for a community garden at her school and didn’t know community options, but PB [helped me] meet other parents and realize there’s a clear need across the board [for school technology],” said Espinoza. “What started with one school improved so many more.

“I am proud of my work. Join me this year,” she exclaimed.

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