Council Members & Communities Announce Results of Second Participatory Budgeting Process

NEW YORK, NY (04/22/2013)(readMedia)-- In 2011, City Council Members Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) and Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) launched Participatory Budgeting (PB) in their districts, enabling their constituents to decide how to spend millions of dollars in Council Member discretionary funds. On Monday, these Council Members were joined by Mark Weprin (D-Queens), Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), and David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) to announce the results of the second cycle of PB in New York City (PBNYC), now an annual process in several council districts.

"Participatory Budgeting gives residents an unprecedented opportunity to make decisions on how City dollars get spent in our communities," said Council Member Mark Weprin, whose district joined PBNYC this year. "I saw a tremendous interest in and a very positive response to this process."

Over 1,500 residents came together in 43 public meetings last fall to discuss local priorities and propose specific ideas for infrastructure projects that would address the needs of their communities. Then, from December to March, over 280 volunteers worked to refine and prioritize project proposals that would go on the ballots in their respective districts. Between April 1st and 13th, over 12,800 residents across eight districts voted to decide which proposals would be funded. A total of 45 projects were selected, totaling $9.1 million. Each council member reserved around $1 million in capital funds for their constituents to allocate.

Council Member David Greenfield said, "Participatory budgeting gives residents the chance to have a direct and real say in the future of their community, so I am pleased that so many people from Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst took the time to volunteer as a budget delegate or voted last week for their favorite projects. These $1 million in projects will truly improve the safety and quality of life of all local residents and will have a great impact on our neighborhoods for years to come."

Council Member Brad Lander said, "I am amazed by the turnout and cross-community collaboration we saw over the last several months. After one of the more trying years in our city's history, it would be easy to divide into factions and work against each other for funding for our corner of the city. But New Yorkers are showing a better way forward and are working together to make the tough decisions that make all of our communities stronger."

The complete vote results were released Friday, when the office of Council Member Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) finished tallying its votes. Voting in that district, which covers much of the Rockaways, was later than the others because its PB process had been suspended after Hurricane Sandy.

Council Member Eric Ulrich said, "I want to thank everyone that contributed to the participatory budget process this year. Despite the fact that many residents remain displaced after Hurricane Sandy, the people of Rockaway and Broad Channel still came out to vote and have proven that they want a say in how their tax dollars are spent. I look forward to bringing the process back next year and working with my constituent's to expand their voice in the budget process."

Recent events in District 19 have complicated the PB process somewhat, though 1170 residents voted to fund seven different projects with $1 million of the Council Member's discretionary funds. Control of these funds has been handed to Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Leroy Comrie (Chair of the Queens Delegation). It is yet to be determined if the seven winning proposals will be funded.

"Participatory budgeting is fundamentally different from politics as usual," said Josh Lerner, Executive Director of The Participatory Budgeting Project. "It lets ordinary people directly decide how tax dollars are invested in their communities. Participatory Budgeting in New York City is part of a growing movement to reinvent democracy."

"Participatory budgeting is working," said Ann Bragg, a leader with Community Voices Heard. "As more people get involved, they realize that the process works and that it is local residents that know what's best for their community. Having power to create proposals and put them on a ballot for a public vote is a powerful tool to bring neighbors together, to bring more transparency to our public funding, and to make sure that decisions are in the interest of a broad set of community members."

Council Member Stephen Levin wanted to give a special thanks to his constituents. "I am happy to say that the inaugural year of Participatory Budgeting in the 33rd District was a success," Levin said. "It was spectacular to see residents from every corner of the district come out to vote and make their voices heard in such a transparent and democratic process. Thank you to the delegates, volunteers, staff and everyone else who worked tirelessly throughout the year. I am looking forward to next year and I hope to see Participatory Budgeting expand throughout New York City."

"I was thrilled to see such a diverse range of residents in my district participating in the process this year including formerly incarcerated youth, public housing tenants, and members of our immigrant community," said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. "We almost doubled the number of votes in our district from 1,000 in year one to 1,770 in year two, which is why I doubled my initial commitment of $1 million to $1.9 million to fund six winning projects. These proposals are a reflection of the wide variety of community needs that delegates analyzed such as more access to technology in schools, senior-friendly spaces, safe public housing, quality recreation and parks. We were honored to be joined by San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto who will be bringing participatory budgeting to Puerto Rico."

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, already setting his sights on next year's PB process, said, "Participatory budgeting is an exciting tool of empowerment for the East Flatbush community. This brings government closer to the people, where it ought to be. I look forward to participatory budgeting continuing to expand citywide and for more of my constituents getting engaged in the design and selection of projects that better this district."

The third cycle of PBNYC will begin in September, when participating districts will hold public assemblies where residents can propose ideas for next year's ballots. At a briefing coordinated by CVH, PBP, and CDP, several candidates for City Council indicated that they will engage in PB if elected this fall. A number of mayoral candidates have also expressed interest in expanding the reach of Participatory Budgeting in years ahead.

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto, on a visit to District 8 during the voting week to learn about PB, said, "I was so inspired to see the PB process in action in Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito's district. The depth of participation among budget delegates, particularly youth and public housing residents, was something that really moved me, and makes me very excited to implement PB in San Juan. PB epitomizes my message to Sanjuaneros that 'el poder está en la calle' ('the power is in the streets'). I look forward to staying connected to the efforts in New York City as we establish the first PB process in Puerto Rico."

"After talking to thousands of participants of Participatory Budgeting, our data shows that the process engages people who are disenchanted with politics and traditionally excluded from civic affairs. PB is an innovative way to inject more transparency into the budget process and increase people's trust in government - something that is important now more than ever in NYC." said Alexa Kasdan, Director of Research and Policy at The Community Development Project.

Similar programs are also in place in Chicago, San Francisco, and Vallejo, CA, where PB is used to allocate funds beyond the capital budget, and the Mayor of Boston recently announced funding for a PB process for youth in that city. In Vallejo, a city that is now emerging from bankruptcy, Vallejo Council Woman Marti Brown explains that PB is transforming their city. "In a short time, PB has changed the image of our city - both internally and externally. Vallejoans who never knew each other before the PB process are finding opportunities to partner in other areas of interest in the city. Bay Area residents are starting to recognize and acknowledge Vallejo for its civic and budgetary innovation - not just its past bankruptcy. Increasingly, Vallejo is becoming known for undertaking the first city-wide PB process in the United States, transforming Democracy and reinvigorating our community. It doesn't get much better than that."

Chicago was the first US city to do PB, joining with over 1,500 cities around the world which implement the process. Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, who brought PB to the 49th Ward in 2009, says "Chicago is proud to welcome New York as a partner in the growing movement for participatory budgeting. It's wonderful to see PB expand in both our great cities."

As in New York, additional Aldermen have initiated PB in their wards during Chicago's 2012-13 cycle. Chicago Alderman John Arena, 45th Ward, explains, "PB has energized my community. The creativity and collaboration has been inspiring. But more than that it has provided insight to the taxpayer about the process, limitations and possibilities of municipal spending."

Leslie Hairston of Chicago's Ward 5, says "My constituents are employed in all walks of life and very active in community issues. PB engages them as resources to give me a broader, deeper perspective on improving the ward's physical environment, at the same time strengthening the accountability, transparency and democratic principles I want to demonstrate as their representative. The dedication and diversity of those who worked with my office on PB have already made this first year a success."


District 8, Melissa Mark-Viverito

Number of Voters: 1770

Amount Allocated: $1,900,000

Winning Projects:

  1. Installation of Security Cameras at four NYCHA developments: Johnson, East River, Douglass, and Millbrook Houses ($500,000)
  2. Laptops for District 8 Schools, including: Young Women's Leadership, PS 57, Manhattan Center, Mosaic Preparatory Academy, PS 369 Young Leaders, Reynolds West Side HS, Renaissance Charter HS for Innovation, PS 72 Lexington Academy, and Park East High School ($450,000)
  3. Technology Centers for Youth and Seniors ($173,000) at YouthBuild and Carver Senior Center
  4. SMART's Mobile Cooking Classroom ($180,000) to be operated by SMART, throughout District 8.
  5. Solar-Powered Greenhouse at Millbrook Houses ($300,000)
  6. Basketball Court Renovations at Thomas Jefferson Park ($300,000)

District 19, Dan Halloran

Number of Voters: 1170

Amount Allocated: $995,000

Winning Projects:

  1. Structural Restoration of Poppenhusen Institute ($250,000)
  2. MacNeil Park Rehabilitation ($100,000)
  3. Police Cameras ($35,000)
  4. Kayak and Canoe Launches ($150,000)
  5. SMART Boards at PS 32/129/130/159/184/193/Bell Academy ($245,000)
  6. Special Needs Playground Equipment ($150,000)
  7. Art Room Renovation at PS 98 ($65,000)

District 23, Mark Weprin

Number of Voters: 1,116

Amount Allocated: $979,000

Winning Projects:

  1. Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps emergency equipment ($40,000)
  2. Queens County Farm Museum roof repair ($35,000)
  3. Martin Van Buren High School Technology Upgrade ($129,000)
  4. Portable Security Cameras ($100,000)
  5. Cunningham Park enhancement of picnic area ($375,000)
  6. Cunningham Park music stage ($300,000)

District 32, Eric Ulrich

Number of Voters: 976

Amount Allocated: $1,442,500

Winning Project:

  1. School Projects ($324,500; 665 Votes)
  2. Daytown Towers upgrades ($38,000; 621 votes)
  3. YMCA project ($300,00; 581 Votes)
  4. Traffic Island Landscaping ($50,000; 531 Votes)
  5. Mobi Mats – ADA ramps for beach access ($180,000; 418 Votes)
  6. Broad Channel Library upgrades ($250,000; 438 Votes)
  7. Dog Park Upgrades ($300,000; 365 Votes)

District 33, Stephen Levin

Number of Voters: 2,632

Amount Allocated: $1,058,000

Winning Projects:

  1. District-wide tree planting – 1000 new trees ($100,000)
  2. MS 8 Technology Funds ($200,000)
  3. East River State Park Dog Run ($450,000)
  4. PS 31 Technology Request ($188,000)
  5. PS 34 Playground Renovations ($120,000)

District 39, Brad Lander

Number of Voters: 2,821

Amount Allocated: $950,000

Winning Projects:

  1. PS 230: Help Kids Connect & Learn With Technology ($180,000): Install 34 Smartboards w/supporting MacBooks in high-needs, diverse (25+ home languages) school serving 1,300 students.
  2. Renovate 8 Bathrooms, PS 58, The Carroll School ($110,000): Provide healthier environment for generations to come by replacing fixtures & flushing mechanisms. Last renovation was in 1954.
  3. Carroll Gardens/Windsor Terrace Library Computers ($75,000): 29 new adult & preschool computers at these branches to support community needs for internet access & computer literacy.
  4. Church Avenue Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Improvements ($300,000): Extend sidewalks and reduce crossing distances on Church Avenue at Coney Island Avenue and McDonald Avenue intersections.
  5. PS 179: Technology upgrade for underserved school ($115,000): 27 SmartBoards for high-needs school to aid learning for English language learners, special education and gifted students.
  6. 3rd Street Green Corridor: New Trees, Less Runoff ($170,000): 10 trees with enhanced pits will improve storm drainage, and add shade and beauty in Gowanus from Bond Street. to 3rd Avenue.

District 44, David Greenfield

Number of Voters: 1610

Amount Allocated: $1,000,000

Winning Projects:

  1. Security cameras in Boro Park ($200,000)
  2. Security cameras in Midwood ($200,000)
  3. Countdown clocks at dangerous intersections in Bensonhurst ($200,000)
  4. Countdown clocks at dangerous intersections in Boro Park ($200,000)
  5. Countdown clocks at dangerous intersections in Midwood ($200,000)

District 45, Jumaane D. Williams

Number of Voters: 940

Amount Allocated: $1,060,000*

Winning Projects:

  1. Installation of security cameras at a number of sites around the Flatbush Gardens apartment complex ($400,000; 697 votes)
  2. Creation of a Wi-Fi-enabled, computer-equipped college and career center in the library of the Tilden Education Campus ($350,000; 659 votes)
  3. Addition of curb extension to Linden Boulevard between East 52nd Street and East 54th Street, a high traffic area for seniors and impaired neighbors ($360,000; 561 votes)

*Additional project for which Council Member Williams has pledged to submit a funding request, pending availability in his capital budget:

  1. Completion of field light installation at Tilden Educational Campus, to increase community usage and improve safety in the surrounding area ($650,000; 4th place, 548 votes)