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City Council program lets you choose what public projects to fund in your neighborhood

New Yorkers voted on how to spend over $40 million on public projects in 2016.

A Participatory Budgeting poll worker explains voting to

A Participatory Budgeting poll worker explains voting to a resident in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

That park near your apartment in need of a little TLC; a city-owned vacant lot that would be perfect for a community garden; an intersection that could benefit from public safety improvements — if you’ve ever had an idea on how to improve the city, there’s a program that wants your input.

Participatory Budgeting New York City (PBNYC) gives residents in certain City Council districts a chance to decide how to spend millions of dollars on public projects around the city.

Anyone can propose a project during the yearlong process, which culminates with a week of open voting on which ideas should get funding.

Now in its seventh year, PBNYC has launched a partnership with LinkNYC kiosks, bringing the project proposals to the streets of New York City and giving residents easier access to voting.

“This is real grass roots democracy in action,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “Participatory Budgeting is also bringing the community together; it’s really about you. You get to come together, meet your neighbors, and make your community a better place.”

The city also lowered the voting age to 11 years old, giving more New Yorkers a say in how taxpayer dollars are spent.

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio cast his vote for projects at the 39th council district office in Brooklyn.

Last year, residents voted on where more than $40 million in funding should be spent in participating districts. Previous PBNYC projects that received funding include: transforming an empty lot in Hell’s Kitchen into a public park; the creation of a STEM lab at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria; and the installation of sidewalk extensions and a way-finding station at a three-way intersection in Borough Park.

Over $30 million in funding is available for public projects this year. Voting on this year’s projects began April 7 and ends on Sunday.

Here’s what you need to know about the Participatory Budgeting process.

How it works

Each year, members of the City Council have the option of joining in the PBNYC process by pledging a minimum of $1 million from their budget.

Community members can submit project ideas online and volunteers, called Budget Delegates, will help develop those ideas into proposals that then go onto a voting ballot.

Residents in participating districts are given a week to vote on all the proposals in their district.

Voters can choose up to five PBNYC projects in their district. The projects with the most votes will receive funding from the council member representing that district until the full amount of PBNYC funding they allocated is used up.

What kind of projects can be proposed

From parks and housing to sanitation and schools, there are a wide variety of proposal categories that qualify for PBNYC funding. However, the funding can only be used on proposals for physical infrastructure projects, like renovating a public library meeting room. The money can’t be used for proposals that involve improving services, such as adding more staff to a city resource program.

You can submit your idea online via the City Council’s website, however, this year’s PBNYC proposal cycle has already closed.

Below is a list of project categories that are eligible for funding:

  • Parks and recreation
  • Sanitation
  • Transit and transportation
  • Housing
  • Environment
  • Schools and education
  • Public health
  • Youth
  • Streets and sidewalks
  • Seniors
  • Public safety
  • Culture and community facilities

Council districts participating this year

There are 27 council districts, representing parts of each borough, that have finalized ballots for this year’s PBNYC vote. The following districts are participating this year: 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 44, 45, 47, 49.

If you’re unsure what district you live in, you can find out by visiting the City Council PBNYC website.

What projects are being proposed in which districts this year

Now that you know whether your council member is participating, you can find out what projects are being proposed in your neighborhood online via the City Council PBNYC website. Clicking on your council member’s name will bring you to a page that lists the proposed projects, with a description and funding amount for each.

When and how you can vote

Voting is open to all New Yorkers 11 years old or older who live in a participating council district. Each district lists several locations where you can vote in person or you can vote online.

Voting for this year’s PBNYC projects began Saturday, April 7, and will end on Sunday, April 15. In order to vote, you will need to sign an affidavit that confirms your residency and age.

How to get involved in PBNYC

The City Council welcomes volunteers interested in getting involved in the PBNYC process beyond proposals and voting.

Community members can become a volunteer Budget Delegate or poll worker, join a district committee or PBNYC citywide committee and participate in a working group that provides input on initiatives that impact PBNYC.

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