Participatory budgeting is back in Sunset Park

One year ago, significant voting turnout made the City Council district including Sunset Park number one in the city, in terms of the number of residents who made their voices heard through participatory budgeting.

Now, it’s time to do it again, with the 38th Council District in Sunset Park and Red Hook in the middle of  its third annual Participatory Budgeting (PB) Vote Week, during which community members have the opportunity to vote on how to spend a portion of public funds allocated to the district.

“The message that District 38 community members sent to the city and all those watching last year was clear,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who implemented PB for the district at the start of his term in 2014. “The New York immigrant community is engaged and if given the opportunity and the right resources, such as ballots in different languages, immigrants will voice their opinion and exercise their political power through voting.”

At least $1 million will be allocated to projects in Menchaca’s district, according to the City Council. As in previous years, for spending that money, Sunset voters have plenty of options. These include an upgrade to the air conditioning wiring at P.S. 1, 309 47th Street, as well as  an auditorium upgrade for Sunset Park Prep, 4004 Fourth Avenue, and the renovation of a library media center in Sunset Park High School, 153 35th Street.

“So many schools have been asking for the same thing: technology,” said Menchaca during last year’s PB announcement ceremony at P.S. 503, 330 59th Street. “One of the things that continue to be an important part of our discussion on education for our young people is getting them ready for the next generation of jobs.”

In addition, choices this time around include the installation of 20 new benches at the park, replacement of existing old chain-link fences and the addition of picnic tables, improving roadways by repairing potholes and cracks in certain locations, and the planting of new trees with tree guards in front of homes and businesses. The installation of electronic bus signs is also on the list.

Menchaca was thrilled with last year’s record setting turnout. “This is something we should all be proud of as we received 6,298 votes,” he said. “That is beautiful because it’s not just from people who are registered to vote. Anyone who is a resident has a voice and power to make their communities better.”

Winning projects for 2015 included outdoor fitness equipment at the Sunset Park Recreational Center which received 2,773 votes, bathroom renovations for schools and the expansion of exit doors for P.S. 169. The number one vote-getter in last year’s participatory budgeting was technology for schools such as P.S. 1 and M.S. 88, 544 Seventh Avenue, which received 3,273 votes.

Voting for PB in the 38th District began on Saturday, March 26 and concludes Sunday, April 3.

Sunset residents can vote this weekend at several locations, including Menchaca’s district office, 4417 Fourth Avenue, until Friday, April 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, 5002 Eighth Avenue, also until Friday, April 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, voting will be held at the Sunset Park Library, 5108 Fourth Avenue,  on Friday, April 1 from 2- 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 2 from 12-3 p.m and Sunset Park will also hold voting sessions through Friday, April 1.

The ballot is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

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