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Get out the vote! Participatory budgeting is back

Vote Week is here for the 2014 round of participatory budgeting (PBNYC) and there are only a few days left for thousands of Brooklynites to cast their votes for which community beautification, education, safety, housing and other projects they would like to see become reality.

Poll sites opened in Brooklyn neighborhoods starting on Sunday, March 30 in libraries, street corners, senior centers and other public areas, and the turnout has been “amazing,” according to the councilmembers who are hosting their respective PBNYC processes.

“We had an amazing kick-off to voting this Sunday with lots of enthusiastic residents excited to cast their votes,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin, whose Council District 33 includes Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Gowanus, Greenpoint, Park Slope and Williamsburg. “[This] is a unique opportunity to have a say in the future of our community and it has been great to see so many people get involved.”

The large turnout was a thrilling sight to behold, enthused freshman Councilmember Carlos Menchaca after watching voters of all ethnic backgrounds, ages and languages gather at the Sunset Park Library, the Red Hook Library, the corner of 55th Street and Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, and Greenwood Park Bocci Bar.

“There are so many people voting! It doesn’t stop,” he wrote on Twitter and the PBNYC D38 Facebook account during the first day of voting.

Seeing so many members of Sunset Park’s immigrant communities come out to vote was heartening, he added, noting 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.

Voting ends on Sunday, April 6.

The idea behind PBNYC is that councilmembers each set aside a chunk of their budget—usually at least $1 million—and have their constituents nominate and then vote for neighborhood projects for that money to fund. Past winning projects have included new bathrooms at P.S. 124, repaired pedestrian paths in Prospect Park, and a dog run in East River State Park.

PBNYC started in 2011 and is a voluntary process for elected officials; this year, participating councilmembers include Brad Lander, Carlos Menchaca, Stephen Levin, David Greenfield and Jumaane Williams—covering Districts 33, 38, 39, 44 and 45, respectively. Menchaca and his predecessor Sara Gonzalez set aside $2 million; the other councilmember set aside $1 million each.

Current projects on the ballots include air conditioning for P.S. 208 in East Flatbush and P.S. 10 and P.S. 15 in South Slope and Red Hook, computers for the Glenwood Senior Center, bathroom renovations at P.S. 261 in Downtown Brooklyn, a fitness area in Red Hook Park, electronic “bus location” signs along the B61, B67 and B69 routes, and a community room and charging table for the Sunset Park Library.

To find out where you can vote and what projects are on the ballot in your neighborhood, see the following contact information.

To vote in Levin’s District 33, call 718-875-5200, email district33pb@gmail.com or visit http://stephenlevin33.tumblr.com.

To vote in Menchaca’s District 38, find your poll sites and times by contacting 718-439-9012 or district38pb@gmail.comhttps://www.facebook.com/pbnycdistrict38.

To vote in Lander’s District 39, call 718-499-1090 or visit http://bradlander.com/PB and http://bradlander.com/where-and-how-to-vote to find your voting times and locations.

To vote in Williams’ District 44 in Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, and Canarsie, call 718-629-2900 or Roberto Celestine347-205-1305for PBvoting locations.

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