As Participatory Budgeting has been adopted here in New York City over the last few years, residents of each participating district can now vote on how to allocate a minimum of $1 million of the city budget to the local improvement efforts they they care most about. In North Brooklyn, the budgetary contenders chosen by neighbors include projects in schools, parks, playgrounds, transportation, and public housing. (Sorry, Lower East Side and East Village– you’re left out again this year.)
Voting time is back starting Saturday, March 26 and running through Sunday, April 3 and, depending on where you live, you might be able to participate in the process, too. Residents must be 14 and up and be able to present identification documents that include their age and address (a list of acceptable forms of ID can be found here). Here’s a run-down of a few of the projects directly related to our hoods. (For a complete list of all project proposals and a map, click here.)
DISTRICT 33 (Includes Greenpoint and parts of Williamsburg)
Residents in this district will have the opportunity to choose from 15 separate projects for capital funding. Stephen Levin, the district’s City Council rep, actually spearheaded the Participatory Budgeting program, which City Council boasts is “grassroots democracy at its best,” and it was his district where in 2013 residents were first given the opportunity to participate in the bottom-up budgeting process.
If you’d like to learn more about the budgetary allocation options below, as well as all the others, Levin is hosting two informational “expos” where you can also get your voting out of the way. They’re happening Tuesday, March 29 (6pm to 9 pm) at the Brooklyn YWCA , 30 3rd Avenue close to the Barclays Center, and Wednesday, March 30 (6 pm to 9 pm) at Greenpoint Beer and Ale, located at 7 North 15th Street in Greenpoint.
Hear the Beat! Community Sound Studio
New York City Housing residents at Independence Towers, in Williamsburg, are asking for funds to add a recording studio onto a computer lab so community members can record music and “be trained for music/audio professions.” For $100,000 the space can be revamped and outfitted with audio equipment.
Streets and Transportation
Street Safety Improvements Near PS 16
The busy intersection at Bedford Avenue and Wilson Street in Williamsburg serves students commuting to school at PS 16 and residents of Independence Towers. Nearby residents are proposing the installation of a curb extension to improve safety– the projects rings in at $400,000.
Real Time Arrival Signage for B44 Bus Route
The B44 spans a huge distance, connecting North Williamsburg with Sheepshead Bay and if you’re a regular rider, you know that the bus can be seriously overcrowded. Recent improvements to the route have proven only somewhat sufficient, and riders are asking for $300,000 to add signage that shows accurate, real-time arrival times at the 15 neediest stops along the north- and south-running routes.
Pedestrian Safety Improvements on Meeker Avenue
Meeker Avenue under the BQE can be a treacherous road to traverse, whether by car, bike, or foot. Residents and corridor users are asking for $400,000 for pedestrian safety improvements that would benefit all of the above.
Essential STEM Labs at IS 318 & PS 34
This item would allocate $500,000 to Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg and PS 34 in Greenpoint. Both are schools that perform relatively well in all areas save for State standardized tests, but where trust in teachers and principals is high. Both schools, however, are in need of essential “STEM” or science, tech, engineering, and math labs.
Make Our School Cool! MS 126
Middle School 126 in Williamsburg is asking for $400,000 to help keep students from melting when things get hot. Their air conditioning system needs rewiring.
Let There Be Air! Juan Morel Campos School
Another Williamsburg school is in need of air conditioning in its auditorium, the central location for events. The fix would cost $350,000.
Parks & Playgrounds
Safe to Play, Green Playground at MS 126
The Ericsson Playground in Greenpoint, used by Middle School 126, is in need of improvements. Opened in 1969, and save for some greening improvements in 1998 and asphalt reconstruction in 2002, the playground hasn’t been pimped out much since the beginning. But advocates are asking for $500,000 to give Ericsson the full treatment with the addition of “interactive play structures.”
Make Msgr. McGolrick Park Safer By Repaving Sidewalks
McGolrick Park in Greenpoint has some busted sidewalks that could use repaving. Residents say the cracks and uneven sidewalks are a hazard for kids and disabled people and could be fixed with $500,000.
DISTRICT 34 (Includes Bushwick and parts of Williamsburg, Ridgewood)
This year, Antonio Reynoso’s district is included once again in the Participatory Budgeting process. Here’s a peek at what’s on the ballot for these neighborhoods.
Visual Arts Classroom Upgrade
Middle School 50, aka El Puente Community School is in need of some improvements in its classrooms used for art education including better lightning, ceiling tracks to hang artwork, and new flooring at a cost of $200,000.
21st-Century Technology at PS 120 and PS 132
Two public schools, one in Greenpoint and the other in Bushwick, are in need of some tech upgrades to help bring education into the modern world. For $285,000 the school would be able to purchase laptops, a 3-D printer, solar panels, and other smart classroom technology.
Technology Upgrades at PS 239 and PS 18
Another pair of public schools, located in Williamsburg and Bushwick respectively, are in need of a tech boost. With $400,000 extra dollars, the school could add more laptops, desktops, a 3-D printer, and smart classroom technology.
Auditorium Facelift at PS 147
This Bushwick public school is in need of some basic auditorium upgrades including 300 new chairs, a new stage, and sound equipment at a cost of $400,000.
A Cool Gym at PS 257
Yet another public school is in need of air-conditioning, this one is located in Bushwick. The gym is used year-round and the improvement would cost $250,000.
Upgrade to Activity Rooms
The Leonard Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which plays host to a number of important public meetings, is in need of new tables, chairs, a fresh coat of paint, book bins, and rugs at a cost of $200,000.
Electrify Our Libraries in District 34
Three separate Brooklyn Public Library branches in North Brooklyn– Leonard, Bushwick, and DeKalb– could use special charging tables where residents can work on laptops and cellphones and recharge them while they’re at it. These would cost $360,000 to install.
Real Time Passenger Boards
This $60,000 project is pretty open ended, but residents will leave it up to DOT to determine the bus stop locations that are most in need of real-time arrival signage.
Parks & Playgrounds
Repaving Our Bushwick Parks
Two neighborhood parks are in need of improvements to the walkways, landscaping, and seating. For $500,000 both Maria Hernandez Park and Fermi Playground could score these updates.