June 12, 2017
By Kim Ahrens, NY4P Communications Intern
The effect of 2017 Participatory Budgeting funds on your parks and open spaces.
This past April, New Yorkers made their voices heard in the capital process, and there were many wins for parks, playgrounds, and open spaces throughout the five boroughs. Each year, community members can propose projects for park improvement with the use of Participatory Budgeting (or PB) funds. In the 2016-2017 PB cycle, 31 of our 51 City Council Members participated in the process, allocating at least $1 million of their discretionary capital dollars to be decided on by residents of their districts. When the final results were in, 24% of all PB funds went towards parks and open space construction and improvement projects. Over $9 million will now be spent on improving public open spaces, such as a playground and courtyard upgrade at P.S. 125 in District 7 and a new play yard for Ditmas Park in District 40. To see the full list of this year’s winning projects, visit the Council’s PB website.
What is Participatory Budgeting and how does it work?
Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process of how to spend a portion of a public budget. The system originated in Brazil and has spread throughout major cities around the world, including New York. It allows community members to propose specific projects and ideas that they would like to be funded. Council Members in each district have the opportunity to participate in PB by allocating at least $1 million of their budget towards allowing their community members to propose their ideas.
Proposed ideas are encouraged beginning in the fall and is followed by a long process of informative public meetings. People are able to vote on the projects they want funded in their district in late March/early April. This year, each voter was allowed five votes and the top five projects voted for received the needed funds from their Council Member until the funds were exhausted.
How can I get involved?
The first step in proposing a project for your community is researching if your council member participates in PB. If they do not, you can encourage them by asking them to commit to the PB process this summer. If you reside in one of the 31 districts that already participate in PB, then your first step is to decide what may benefit your community. Anyone over the age of 14 can propose a project to be covered by PB funds. Identification is not required in order to propose a project. District residents are encourages to attend the public meetings held in the late summer and early fall to become informed and educated on the projects proposed within your districts. Voting is also open to anyone within the district who is 14 years of age or older, and identification is also not required.
Other ways to get involved include organizing meetings to promote and encourage your proposed plan to gain support from other community members. Informing other community members about the benefits of PB is beneficial as many members are unaware of the power they have in PB. Another opportunity is becoming a budget delegate, which involves volunteering to further research proposed projects before finalizing the ballot. Find out more about becoming a budget delegate and their roles in PB later this summer.
Keep an eye out in your local parks and open spaces as to what can use improvement to benefit your community. Make your ideas a reality by proposing your project in the next PB cycle and gain support from your fellow community members! For more information on ideas for park improvement you can propose to your council member for the next PB vote, check out our “How Can I Improve My Park?” guide and webinar.