By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Schools, playgrounds, gardens and libraries were the big winners in the latest round of participatory budgeting voting in neighborhoods from Williamsburg to Sunset Park.
On Tuesday, Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca (D- Red Hook, Sunset Park) and Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Boerum Hill, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Park Slope) were the latest to announce the outcome of balloting in their districts.
In participatory budgeting, local residents vote on how to spend millions of city dollars on schools, libraries, streets and sidewalks right in their own neighborhoods. Over the last month, Menchaca and Levin, along with other participating councilmembers across the city, held a series of meetings across their districts to gather suggestions.
Sunset Park residents wanted a new community room in their local library to hold public meetings; Red Hook residents said they needed air conditioning and more technology in local schools. Families in Greenpoint pushed for the reconstruction of worn-out McGolrick Park Playground. Voting took place from late March through April 6.
Five projects, at a total of $1.56 million, will be funded by Levin’s office, up from the original amount budgeted, $1 million. “These projects were developed by the community and will serve the community, and I am looking forward to seeing the impact they will have on the lives of residents throughout the district in the years to come,” Levin said in a statement.
“There were a lot of outstanding projects on the ballot this year and a lot of excitement from the residents throughout the 33rd District who came out to vote,” Levin’s spokesman Matt Ojala told the Brooklyn Eagle. In Levin’s District 33, almost 2,000 residents turned out to vote.
In Menchaca’s District 38, Red Hook and Sunset Park residents turned out in droves. Menchaca said on Tuesday that the voting had garnered the highest voter turnout ever in the history of New York City participatory budgeting.
"This is a historic day for our district. We have empowered our residents to shape the improvements they want to see in their neighborhood schools, parks, streets and libraries,” he said in a statement. “In our first year, I am proud to report that nearly three thousand answered our call and affirmed our quest for a more inclusive participatory democracy.” More than two-thirds of the ballots were cast in a language other than English.
Just ten out of the city's 51 council districts were part of this year’s participatory budgeting process – and five of them are in Brooklyn.
Besides Levin and Menchaca, Councilmembers Brad Lander (D-Park Slope-Windsor Terrace), David Greenfield (D-Borough Park-Midwood-Bensonhurst) and Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush-Flatlands) also participated.
Lander was honored by President Obama in 2013 for his role in establishing participatory budgeting in New York City. Like Levin, this year Lander decided to earmark $1.5 million towards neighborhood projects instead of $1 million. (To see the results of voting in his and other districts, visit http://pbnyc.org/)
Participatory Budgeting Winners in Brooklyn Council District 33
(Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Boerum Hill Greenpoint, parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope)
- NYCHA Playground Repairs: Help fund repairs and renovations at four playgrounds, including Gowanus Houses, 572 Warren Street Houses, Wyckoff Gardens, and Jonathan Williams Plaza ($400,000)
- Gowanus Community Center Re-Opening: Provide renovations at the Gowanus Community Center ($325,000)
- McGolrick Park Playground Reconstruction: Provide a full reconstruction of the McGolrick Park playground ($450,000)
- BOOKlyn Shuttle: Purchase and retrofit bus designed by Pratt Institute to inspire, stimulate and improve the literacy of North Brooklyn’s youth. ($198,000)
- P.S. 261 Bathroom Renovations: Replace flushers, faucets, and soap dispensers throughout school; complete cosmetic redo of main floor girls and boys bathrooms. ($175,000)
Participatory Budgeting Winners in Brooklyn Council District 38
(Red Hook, Sunset Park)
- NYPD Cameras: Installment of cameras along 6th, 7th and 8th avenue between 42nd and 62nd street would provide extra security to the community. ($600,000)
- Street Resurfacing in Community Board 7: Resurface 7th Avenue. ($350,000)
- Community Room in Sunset Park Library: There is a need for a room where the community can hold meetings. Space would be open to the public to reserve for events. ($60,000)
- Tech for Schools: P.S. 15, P.S. 24, P.S. 503 and M.S. 821. Improving access to technology for four neighborhood schools that serve diverse communities. ($67,500
- AC wiring for P.S. 10 and P.S 15: Cooling systems for two neighborhood schools. Improving conditions in hottest classrooms and use of auditorium. ($400,000)
- Red Hook Library Community Garden: A new garden located at 7 Wolcott Street with space for the community. ($85,000)