Sunday, December 18, 2011

Participatory Government Continues in Kensington

This past autumn New York City began a brave new experiment designed to bring citizens back into the process of democratic government and to encourage participation and autonomy. The program, known as the Participatory Budgeting Project gives people the opportunity to suggest ways they would like to see their tax dollars spent, and then to vote on those grass-roots ideas.

There were hundreds of people on hand from the four districts whose Council members are involved over the past few months who attended public assemblies to discuss their ideas on what to do with about $1 million in capital funds for each district. There are volunteer committees now debating the proposals, and voting on these proposals is expected to take place this spring.

The four Council members involved in this exciting project are Brad Lander of the 39th district which includes Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope and parts of Kensington and Borough Park; Jumaane Williams of the 45th district including Flatbush, Midwood and parts of Canarsi; Melissa Mark-Viverito of the 8th district in Harlem and the South Bronx; and Eric Ulrich the 32nd district Council member representing southwest Queens.

Brad Lander had this to say about the project:

“We are excited to put budgeting power directly in the hands of the people. Not only will next year’s budget be more democratic as a result, it will also be more effective because our constituents know best where money needs to go in our community.”

When asked what he felt was the quirkiest idea, Mr. Lander said, “Make a Gowanus Canal gondola, aptly called “The Gowandola;” create dumpster pools for hot summer days like they had on Manhattan’s East Side on Saturdays in 2010, and which first popped up in the Gowanus neighborhood.”

Lander felt the boldest idea was to create “A community center to bring together the diverse neighborhoods that make up Kensington, Brooklyn. To make the idea feasible within the $1 million budget limitation, committee members are looking for rooms in libraries or other public spaces that can be remodeled to be mini-community centers.”