‘Game’ with real prizes – West Side Rag

401(k) 2012 image via Wikimedia Commons.

By Carol Tannenhauser

It’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) again. Confused about what that means? Not to say disrespectful, but think of it as a game.

Your council member (if they choose to participate) — in District 6, Gale Brewer, who did — has at least $1,000,000 in their PB pot.

The first step is for community members to submit ideas for neighborhood capital improvement projects: infrastructure items, such as playgrounds, dog runs, and benches, as well as technology for schools, such as laptops.

“Qualifying projects must cost at least $50,000 and have a lifespan of at least five years,” a spokesperson for Council member Brewer told us. “The funds allocated to this program can be used for material improvements that benefit the public.”

  • The window for submission of ideas is from September 12 through November 11. Ideas can be submitted at the Councilman’s Brewer County Office, located at 563 Columbus Street (87-88), or online at: http://ideas.pbnyc.org/page/about.

Next comes the proposal development phase, when volunteers join “delegating committees” to develop ideas that are presented in “project proposals,” working with city agencies to estimate project costs. Delegates narrow down the proposals and select projects that best meet the needs of the community.

  • The proposal development phase will take place from October to January.

Once the proposals are identified, budget delegates and evaluators come out to vote and prepare for a nine-day community vote. (Make no mistake about it, election propaganda is a big part of the game.)

  • This year, voting will take place in March/April.

The winning projects are included in New York City’s next fiscal year budget. Staff and stakeholders evaluate the process and oversee the implementation of winning projects by the agencies.

It’s easy to think of participatory budgeting as a game, but the “prizes” are very real. In 2021, the participatory budget paid for:

1. Surveillance cameras on Broadway, Amsterdam, Columbus, and Riverside Drive: 672 votes, $320,000 to install eight security cameras on Broadway, Amsterdam, Columbus, and Riverside Drive to deter crime and ensure public safety. Locations are determined in consultation with the NYPD.

2. Infrastructure Improvements to Jesse Isador Strauss School (PS 199, grades K-5, 270 W. 70th St.): 617 votes, $300,000 to upgrade and repair 2 existing student restrooms (replace fixtures, booths, floor/wall tiling, ADA access).

3. Greening Broadway: Trees and Tree Keepers on Broadway Above 72 Street: 592 votes, $250,000 to install approximately 35 trees and tree guards on sidewalks along Broadway. This would make the street a more attractive destination, environmentally sound, and provide additional shade.

4. School of Technology Center Scholarship (MS 243, Grades 5-8, 100 W. 84th Street): 578 votes, $117,000 to buy 12 Promethean boards and 30 laptops with one laptop cart to ensure each classroom has a smart board and laptops connected to the smart boards. This project will ensure that the school has the technology deployed in the classroom to support a rich and interactive learning experience.

Turn your ideas into reality! Again, the deadline for submitting ideas is November 11th. Ideas can be submitted at the Councilman’s Brewer County Office, located at 563 Columbus Street (87-88), or online at: http://ideas.pbnyc.org/page/about.

will keep you posted.

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