New York City

In 7 Brooklyn districts, residents can decide how to spend millions

Voting takes place April 13 to 19

April 7, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Menchaca’s budget facilitator Jimmy Li encouraged voters to participate in last year’s Participatory Budget on 8th Avenue in Sunset Park.  Photo courtesy of Councilmember Menchaca’s office

This year’s round of a democratic process called Participatory Budgeting will include more City Council districts than ever before, including seven in Brooklyn.

In Participatory Budgeting, community members directly decide how to spend at least $1 million of their own tax dollars. The process is often used to pay for desperately-needed improvements to schools, sidewalks, community centers and parks that have fallen through the city’s budget cracks.

Residents have been working for months during brainstorming sessions to create their wish lists of projects, and vote week takes place from April 13 – 19. People should look up their district’s projects on the Participatory Budgeting website (http://pbnyc.org) or call 718-875-5200 before voting.

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City Councilmember Stephen Levin (D- Greenpoint-Brooklyn Heights-Downtown Brooklyn-Bedford–Stuyvesant), who began participating in the program two years ago, encouraged residents to get involved in the process.

“Anyone at least 14 years old … is eligible to vote — all you need is to bring a proof of address to the voting site,” he said in a statement on Monday.

In Levin’s District 33, projects that have been placed on the ballot include replacing 11 historic street lamps on Atlantic Ave.; fixing the non-flushing bathrooms at P.S. 38 and M.S. 447 in Boerum Hill; repairing the disintegrating ball courts and playgrounds at NYCHA’s Independence Towers and Wyckoff Gardens; bringing more electricity to Khalil Gilbran High School, which doesn’t have enough power to run its computers; and several others.

This year, residents are deciding how to spend $25 million of Councilmembers’ capital discretionary funds citywide.

Brooklyn Councilmembers participating this year include David Greenfield (District 44); Brad Lander (District 39); Steve Levin (District 33), Carlos Menchaca (District 38), Antonio Reynoso (District 34), Mark Treyger (District 47) and Jumaane Williams (District 45).

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Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said in a statement that last year’s process was incredibly successful.  “I will again be allocating a full $2 million dollars to capital projects proposed.”

Last year, Sunset Park residents voted to add a new community room in their local library to hold public meetings; Red Hook residents said they needed air conditioning and more technology in local schools. Families in Greenpoint pushed for the reconstruction of worn-out McGolrick Park Playground; Gowanus residents voted for renovations at the Gowanus Community Center.

“I am very proud that the process has grown from just four participating Councilmembers to 22 — not bad for an idea that people dismissed as crazy just a short time ago,” Councilmember Brad Lander, who was honored by President Obama in 2013 for his role in establishing participatory budgeting in New York City, said in a statement when the expansion was announced.

 


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