For one week, New Yorkers get a vote on how $1M in city money gets spent through participatory budgeting

Mar28 Asser_Levy_Recreation_Center

One of the possible projects is $250,000 in enhancements to the Asser Levy Recreation Center.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents in City Council Districts 2 and 4 will get a chance to vote on improvements in their neighborhood during participatory budgeting vote week starting on March 30.

Councilmembers Keith Powers of District 4 and Carlina Rivera of District 2 solicited ideas for “capital” projects this past fall and volunteers went through the suggestions and picked roughly a dozen ideas per district that residents can vote on through April 7.

Powers, who represents Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, Midtown East, Central Park South and the Upper East Side, has a handful of district-wide improvements that residents can vote on. One project, which would cost $200,000, would bring countdown clocks with real-time passenger information to bus stops throughout the district. Another project would resurface distressed roads for one mile of Council District 4 and would require $250,000 in funding. New plantings and tree guards throughout the district would cost $150,000.

Local residents can also vote for improvements to the Asser Levy Recreation Center across from Peter Cooper Village, which would provide new fitness equipment and flooring in the gym of the rec center and would cost $250,000.

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Public can weigh in on how district dollars get spent this year

Council Member Keith Powers

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of City Council District 2 and 4 will be getting a say on how to spend $1 million that’s being allotted to each district, starting this summer.

The opportunity to weigh in on which projects are most important for the community, through a program called participatory budgeting, started citywide in 2011. This year’s cycle is currently underway and the City Council is soliciting suggestions from New Yorkers for “capital” projects, which means proposals that make improvements to physical infrastructure in spaces like city parks, public schools or any other city-owned property. “Expense” projects, which includes ideas like expanded bus service and afterschool programs, are not eligible for participatory budgeting.

City Councilmember Keith Powers is launching participatory budgeting in District 4 (covering Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside, Midtown East, Central Park South, and the Upper East Side), for the first time, as is Councilmember Carlina Rivera for District 2 (Gramercy, the East Village, Alphabet City and Kips Bay). Neither of their predecessors, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Councilmember Rosie Mendez, participated in the program previously.

“The process for the last cycle started the year before (I was elected) and if the district didn’t start then, we needed to wait, so this is the first year we could implement it,” Powers said. “There was big growth for it in the last City Council and additional growth in it this year, in districts like this one. All the new members that didn’t have it in their district, Carlina Rivera, other new members in districts where it wasn’t previously offered, are able to take part now.”

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Maybe next year for participatory budgeting

By Sabina Mollot

Over the past week, many City Council members, including Speaker Corey Johnson, have been cheering the fact that this past week, April 7-15, was a window of community voting on how to spend $1 million.

The money, part of allocated funds for different districts, was included in a program called “participatory budgeting,” in which constituents, including children, get a say in how the money gets spent, like improvements to parks, libraries or senior centers.

However, not all districts were included in the program and District 4, spanning from Stuyvesant Town to 98th Street, had no participatory budgeting. Note: This isn’t extra money, just funding set aside from a council member’s budget.

We reached out to City Council Keith Powers’ office to ask why his constituents didn’t get a say, and according to a spokesperson, Liz Peters, the reason is that he would have had to enroll in the program last year, and at that time Powers wasn’t in office yet. However, she said, Powers would look into the process for next year, because he thinks it’s an “innovative idea,” one that was started by the Progressive Caucus, of which he is the vice co-chair.