Here’s Your Chance to Tell the City How to Blow a Milli
If you missed out on last night’s gathering, don’t worry — there are still plenty more chances to make your ideas heard. Over the next few weeks the first stage of participatory budgeting will come to various locales all over Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. Rally some support for your own idea, and who knows? Your local public school might be the next to get a new media center, or your development could win a playground renovation (both projects that won out through the process last year).
Participatory budgeting is in its fifth year in New York City, and this round 27 of the city’s 51 City Council districts will take part, up from 24 last year. “Council members are realizing this is awesome and that people want their voices to be heard,” said Jennifer Gutierrez, Antonio Reynoso’s chief of staff. Council Member Stephen Levine’s neighboring District 33 (Williamsburg and Greenpoint) is also participating this year, though there seems to be less interest on the other side of the river; Council Member Margaret Chin (Lower Manhattan) and Rosie Mendez (East Village) have declined join the endeavor.
This is the second year that Reynoso’s district (Bushwick, Williamsburg and Ridgewood) has taken part. Last year more than 51,000 New Yorkers city-wide voted to allocate $32 million in discretionary funds for locally-developed capital projects. In District 34 about 3,100 came out to vote. The polls are open to everyone over the age of 14 residing in the district, regardless of whether they have been incarcerated or are undocumented citizens.
Eligible projects must cost between $35,000 and $1 million ($1 million is the minimum amount a council member can devote to the process, though they can use their discretion to up that number). In Greenpoint, for example, participatory budgeting provided a portion of the funds to renovate McGolrick Park. Getting people to participate can be a challenge, but just the simple act of knocking on doors, especially in communities like Bushwick Houses, can be extremely effective, said Lacey Tauber, legislative director for Councilmember Reynoso’s office. “I think it’s great how passionate they are,” she said of the young people she convinced to attend just a few minutes prior to the meeting, who stuck around for more than an hour to offer their enthusiastic advice. This year, Tauber said, they’d like to focus on getting more senior citizens involved.
The vote isn’t until next spring, but already Reynoso’s office has scheduled nine meetings throughout District 34 in addition to last night’s and one that was held on Monday. The most highly supported ideas at the forums will go to volunteer community delegates, who will assemble multiple times in October and November to develop proposals. Then in March the delegates will present their ideas at project expos to get community feedback, the top ideas will be brought to a vote, and City Council members will take the winning projects to the City Council for approval.
In District 33, where two preliminary meetings have already been held, there’s still one left to attend, on October 8 at 5 p.m. at the Independence Community Center, 114 Taylor Street (Williamsburg). See the list of District 34 participatory budget meetings below:
Thursday, September 24th at Jennings Hall at 6:30PM- 260 Powers Street
Sunday, September 27th at St. Matthias Church at 9:45AM, 10:45AM, and 12:30PM- 58-15 Catalpa Avenue
Monday, September 28 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 6:30PM- 334 S5th Street
Wednesday, September 30th at Cooper Park Community Center at 6:30PM- 76 Kingsland Avenue
Wednesday, September 30th at PS 123 at 6:30PM- 100 Irving Ave
Saturday, October 3rd at Williamsburg Community Center at 2:30PM- 195 Graham Ave
Wednesday, October 7th at Diana H. Jones Senior Center at 6:30PM- 9 Noll Street
Thursday, October 8th at Learners and Leaders at 6:30PM- 378 Seneca Ave
Friday, October 9th at Roundtable Senior Center at 1PM- 1175 Gates Avenue