BY HEATHER J. CHIN AND DENISE ROMANO
Participatory budgeting (PBNYC) is back and five Brooklyn councilmembers will each have at least $1 million in discretionary funds available to allocate for capital projects that residents of each district get to choose.
Councilmembers Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, David Greenfield, Stephen Levin and Sara Gonzalez, along with Democratic Party councilmember candidate Carlos Menchaca, are launching a series of neighborhood assemblies in their respective communities, where residents can begin to brainstorm ideas for what upgrades and projects they would like to see addressed in 2014.
Past neighborhood projects chosen have included new bathrooms at P.S. 124, repaired pedestrian paths in Prospect Park, a dog run in East River State Park, library renovations, security cameras around Flatbush Gardens, a college and career center in the library of the Tilden Education campus, and senior center upgrades.
Williams, who represents the 45th Council District which covers parts of Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, and Canarsie, was one of the first city elected officials to opt into the PBNYC process in 2011.
After two years of success, Williams says that he hopes people turn out for a third year. “I’m excited. I hope to have it grow,” he said, noting that the process isn’t a solution for every issue, but “it definitely works for some things.”
Lander, also an early adopter of PBNYC, agreed, as did Rachel Fine, facilitator for the Participatory Budgeting Education Committee who advocated for P.S. 124 bathroom project in 2012.
“For this project to be funded, it needed to be considered a priority by the people in this district, people with no connection to the school, or maybe even any public school, for that matter,” said Fine. “I know I speak on behalf of every member of our committee when I say that we are thrilled to have been part of a team – and a community – that helped make this project possible.”
For the second year, Councilmember David Greenfield, representing Boro Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst, is also participating. Like last time, he will be allocating the $1 million in funding to three separate projects: one in each neighborhood he represents. Last year, residents secured funding for surveillance cameras, countdown clocks and other traffic safety measures.
“When more and more residents step up and take an active role in their neighborhood, the entire community benefits,” said Greenfield. “If you have ever had an idea to improve your block or a good idea for how our tax dollars should be reinvested locally, be sure to stop by an upcoming meeting and have your voice heard.”
Councilmember Sara Gonzalez is joining the PBNYC process this year, hosting joint neighborhood assemblies with 38th Council District candidate Carlos Menchaca, who is poised to be the next councilmember representing Sunset Park and Red Hook. District 38 has $2 million to allocate in the coming fiscal year.
Menchaca noted that he realized the importance of the inclusionary nature of the participatory budgeting process after he “learned so quickly during the campaign that [immigrant communities] felt like their voices weren’t being heard when the government was distributing resources.”
Menchaca contended that immigrant communities who feel powerless are “detrimental” to the city.
“If you don’t believe in the government or your community, you can’t do anything,” he said, noting that residents will be able to weigh in on issues like zoning. “We have to make sure we understand where schools need to go and which ones need to grow.”
To contribute ideas for Levin’s District 33 online map, visit http://d33.pbnyc.org/ and http://stephenlevin33.tumblr.com/post/64308824002/there-is-still-time-to-submit-your-ideas-for, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 718-875-5200, or send mail to 410 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217.
To contact Williams’ office about making your voice heard, call 718-629-2900.
For information about upcoming meeting dates for the 38th Council District, email email@example.com, call Gonzalez’s office at 718-439-9012, or visit http://pbnyc.org.
To participate in the 44th Council District PBNYC process, call Greenfield’s office at 718-853-2704.