NY4P Joins Participatory Budgeting Process

Friday, January 13, 2012
Four New York City Council Members are giving New Yorkers more of a say in the City's legislative priorities.
Beginning last fall, Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane Williams signed on to the Participatory Budgeting process, a growing national movement in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Each member allocated $1 million of capital discretionary funds to the project, and oversaw the formation of delegate committees for issues such as housing, education, open space and transportation. The community meetings began last fall.
New Yorkers for Parks serves on the project’s steering committee and recently attended the Parks & Recreation delegate meeting for District 8. The meeting, also attended by Parks Department officials, was reflective of how the Participatory Budgeting process is meant to work—through feedback and collaboration with government officials.
The group identified specific improvements needed in three local parks, and Parks Department representatives offered helpful suggestions for each site. In Poor Richard’s Playground, Parks said it would soon invest $200,000 to fix the worn safety surfacing, so Participatory Budgeting funds were not needed. Because the available funds would only cover a portion of the cost of new play equipment in Blake Hobbes Playground, Parks suggested that the community seek supplemental funds from a local nonprofit to help meet the shortfall. As for the outdated dog run in Thomas Jefferson Park, Parks urged the newly formed Thomas Jefferson Park Dog Association to build a constituency to advocate for Parks Department capital funds for a new dog run.
Similar meetings have taken place over the past several months IN the other three participating districts. When this spring’s budget discussion arrives, New Yorkers will have had a more direct say in how public money is spent than ever before.

NY4P Report Spurs Community Action in Central Harlem

Friday, December 16, 2011
When members of the Harlem-based Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association (MMPCIA) opened NY4P’s Report Card on Large Parks in early November, they quickly noticed that their neighborhood park, Marcus Garvey, had scored lower than any other in Manhattan.

“We were shocked to see it score a D,” said Laurent Delly, Vice President of the MMPCIA. “The Report Card really was a wake-up call and has helped us be a lot more proactive in addressing issues in the park.”

While the 30-year-old community organization had focused mostly on housing and economic development issues, its attention quickly turned to the park that is, as Delly said, at the heart of the community. The 20-acre space opened in 1840 as Mount Morris Park and was renamed in 1973. It hosts the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, among other events.

After reading the Report Card, MMPCIA quickly got in touch with the Marcus Garvey Alliance and organized a series of leaf and trash cleanups in November. They met with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro. And they have solidified a group of neighborhood volunteers who are devoted to improving the park.

Since the Report Card’s research was finished, several of the benches have been fixed and the amphitheater has been renovated, but there’s still much work to be done. Weed growth and worn playground equipment – along with new lamppost installation and refurbishment of the park’s iconic Harlem Fire Watchtower – are all issues MMPCIA is determined to address – both through building the fledgling volunteer network and working with the Parks Department and elected officials.

“”We want to get an A next time, so we’re fighting vigorously for it,” Delly said.