In Councilman Brad Lander’s Brooklyn District a new experiment with democracy is underway and looking good. Over the weekend 2,812 residents of Kensington, Cobble Hill and Park Slope voted in what was the second election in New York City known as “participatory budgeting.”
The idea behind participatory budgeting is that the people in the neighborhood who are closest to the issues which are most important to them decide directly how their own tax money is spent.
Here’s how it works: Neighborhood residents came up with 24 proposals to put before the voters, and the voters chose among these 24 the six projects which will be prioritized for funding in New York’s 2014 budget. The budget of $1 million will be adopted in June using city capital promised by Lander.
The following projects were chosen by the voters to receive a part of the $1 million:
1. P.S. 230 will receive $180,000 to install 34 Smartboards in the school together with MacBooks. The school serves high-needs students. Many of the 1,300 pupils are also learning English as a second language.
2. The Carrol School, P.S. 58 will have eight bathrooms renovated using $110,000 of the budget. The last time the school was renovated was 1954.
3. Carrol Gardens/Windsor Terrace Library will receive $75,000to fund 29 new adult and preschool computers. The purpose is to support community needs for internet and computer competence and literacy.
4. Church Avenue will receive $300,000 worth of traffic and pedestrian safety upgrades. Sidewalks will be extended and crossing distances reduced on Church Avenue at the Coney Island Avenue and McDonald Avenue intersections.
5. P.S. 179 will receive $115,000 to upgrade the school’s technology infrastructure. Twenty-seven Smartboards will be installed to help this underserved school which serves a high-needs population of English language learners, special education students, and gifted students as well.
6. New trees will be planted in the 3rd Street Green Corrider to help control rainwater runoff. Using a budget of $170,000, ten new trees with enhanced tree pits will be placed in Gowanus from Bond Street to Third Avenue. Drainage during storms should be improved while bringing shade and beauty to this section of Brooklyn.
“I am amazed by the turnout and cross-community collaboration we saw over the last week,” said Councilman Lander. “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.”
Those who would like to see all 24 projects which were proposed can turn to Brad Lander’s web site.