Fort Greene

Brooklyn leads the way in participatory budgeting

June 8, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Borough President Eric Adams discussed the impact of participatory budgeting during a visit to the Willoughby Senior Center. Also pictured are (left to right) PB Project Exec. Dir. Josh Lerner, Walt Whitman Tenants Association President Isabella Lee, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, PB delegate Jelani Mashariki and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo by Erica Sherman/Borough President’s Office

Brooklyn is a trailblazer when it comes to the city’s participatory budgeting process, according to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

On Tuesday, Mark-Viverito and Adams revealed that more than 26,000 residents cast ballots at locations across the borough during the 2015-2016 participatory budgeting (PB) process, voting on which capital budget items they would like to see get city funding.

PB is a process by which everyday citizens get to decide how taxpayer dollars are spent on projects in their communities.

The voting period took place from March 26 to April 3.

Fifty-five out of 132 projects on Brooklyn’s ballots will be funded with $15.5 million of taxpayer dollars, including a $1 million contribution from Borough President Adams, apportioned equally to winning projects from the votes conducted by the 10 councilmembers in the borough who participated in PB.

The Brooklyn councilmembers who took part in PB during this cycle were Stephen Levin, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy Jr., Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander, Mathieu Eugene, David G. Greenfield, Jumaane Williams and Mark Treyger. 

“Brooklyn has a special place in our city’s participatory budgeting process,” Mark-Viverito said during a tour that she, Adams and other elected officials took of the Willoughby Senior Center in Fort Greene. “Two of the four councilmembers to bring participatory budgeting to New York City represent Brooklyn, and out of 28 districts across the city currently engaged in participatory budgeting, 10 are in this great borough.”

The Willoughby Senior Center will be getting a $500,000 new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system thanks to PB funding from Adams and Councilmember Cumbo.

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“It means a lot to be the first local elected official or agency head outside of the City Council to commit to PB, a revolutionary approach to growing democracy from the ground up,” said Adams. “From Bensonhurst to Bushwick, Brooklynites have raised their voices and will directly benefit from the community improvements that they have prioritized with their votes.”

Lander, one of councilmembers who brought PB to New York City, said he is pleased to see how much the concept has grown.

“After five very successful years of PB in my district, it’s remarkable to see how this idea has taken off across Brooklyn. My district saw its highest vote total to date, with 3,100 people coming out to take part in expanding democracy and support our neighborhoods. We held polling stations across the district from mosques to senior centers to a very rainy Little League parade, and even had a mobile vote station attached to the back of a bike,” Lander said.

 

Here are some of the winning projects:

  • Eight security cameras in Bensonhurst – $200,000

  • Air-conditioned gym at P.S. 257 in Bushwick – $250,000

  • Upgrades at Brower Park basketball courts in Crown Heights – $600,000

  • Construction of Kensington Dog Run – $135,000

  • Street repairs on Avenue J, Avenue K, Nostrand Avenue and Ocean Avenue in Midwood – $500,000

 

Councilmembers also sang the praises of the PB process, saying that they believed strongly in giving constituents a voice in how budget funds are distributed.

“The inaugural undertaking of the participatory budgeting process has yielded positive results. With the generous support from Borough President Adams and the additional money pledged by myself, our community was awarded with bonus projects, such as the revamping of Brower Park’s basketball courts,” Cornegy (D-Bed-Stuy) said.

“I was proud to implement participatory budgeting in the 35thDistrict for the very first time to gain key insight into the needs that exist within the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Our 19 projects ranged from public safety enhancements to technology upgrades on our city streets, housing developments, and public schools,” Cumbo (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill) said.

“An ideal participatory budgeting process engages groups and individuals from all walks of life, especially in a borough as diverse as Brooklyn,” said Levin (D-Greenpoint-parts of Williamsburg). 

“Participatory budgeting is an empowering tool that puts power back into the hands of the people,” said Williams (D-Flatbush). “Our winning projects in Brooklyn reflect some of the main priorities of the community. These projects included technology upgrades to students at Midwood High School, repairs to streets and new bus pads to prevent the heat and weight of buses from softening the asphalt and thus damaging the streets.”

 

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