PHOTOS & TEXT BY CHRISTIAN MILES (click on his name to visit his website) | Have you ever found yourself walking down the street, seeing something amiss and asking, “Why isn’t the City doing something about this?”
Imagine if we could put our money where our mouth is and use taxpayer dollars to change things for the better. Well, there actually is a way to make that happen—and it’s happening right now.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a process conducted by 29 of New York City’s 51 Districts, including our own District 3. Over the course of several months, PB brings members of the public together with local government for the purpose of identifying—and possibly funding—worthy capital works projects (i.e. brick and mortar improvements that can be funded to completion, as one-time allocations). What’s more, PB demonstrates the power of democracy in a direct, discernable manner that benefits the community.
New York City Council Member and District 3 rep Erik Bottcher has set aside $1 Million to fund projects conceived, developed, advocated for, and voted on by individuals within District 3. Over the years, the district’s PB process has secured funding for greenspaces, tree planting and protection, upgrades at local schools and libraries, and more.
Last week’s September 28 kickoff event for the current round of PB was structured as an info and brainstorming session. It was presided over by Council Member Botcher and his Liaison to Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4), Jordan Feiner. Like the September full board meeting of CB4, the PB Kickoff took place in one of the classrooms at Pier 57, the recently opened West 15th St. waterfront facility with a ground floor food hall and meeting/classroom spaces provided at no cost to the community.
A slide presentation explained the purpose and process of Participatory Budgeting, in a manner similar to what took place at 2022’s Kickoff (click here to read our coverage of that event). Currently, PB is in an “Idea Collection & Volunteer Recruitment” phase lasting through October. Then, it’s the Proposal Development phase (Oct. 2023-Jan. 2024), followed by Get Out the Vote and Vote Week (March-April) and an Evaluation & Planning phase (May-June) during which Bottcher’s staffmembers and community stakeholders oversee implementation of winning projects by applicable City agencies. (The top vote-getting project is funded to completion, with the other most-favored projects funded until the $1 Million runs out.)
After the presentation, the 40-plus attendees split into small groups to come up with project proposals. Suggestions ranged from installing special signals for bike lanes (to bolster pedestrians safety) to constructing bathroom facilities at a local playground. All told, the groups generated over a dozen ideas they felt would benefit their community.
Thursday’s meeting was just the beginning. In the coming months, Council Member Bottcher’s Office will host several more brainstorming sessions throughout District 3. If you’d like to get involved or just know more about the process, contact the Council Member’s District Office by calling 212-564-7757 or sending an email to District3@council.nyc.gov. To get notifications from Council Member Bottcher via email, click here.
Keep scrolling down for more photos from Sept. 28’s Participatry Budgeting Kickoff event.
—Additional Reporting by Scott Stiffler
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