The votes are in — and the million-dollar discretionary funding available to West Siders from the City’s budget has been allocated towards more trees, technology upgrades and an air conditioning repair at a Hell’s Kitchen school.
More than 2,000 West Siders cast their ballot to choose which proposed projects will be put in front of Mayor Eric Adams administration to receive funding from the upcoming citywide budget.
Over $1 million in discretionary spending was allocated to City Council Member Erik Bottcher’s district, with proposed projects ranging from new school technology to a resurfaced dog run. Said Bottcher of the community-sourced decision-making: “I believe that government should be inclusive, innovative, and work for the people. Participatory Budgeting embodies all of that, and I’m so excited to have brought it back to our community. These projects see going to have a real impact on the ground. I’m so grateful to the volunteers who dedicated months to developing and presenting these incredible projects and to the thousands of voters who made their voices heard.”
Participatory Budgeting (PB), a democratic process implemented in 2011 on a district-by-district basis (though briefly suspended during the first years of COVID-19), allows voters to determine how to allocate the $1 million of discretionary funding to infrastructure projects across District 3. Over $35 million in taxpayer money is allocated throughout districts annually. Participatory Budget projects must cost at least $50,000, benefit the public, and have a lifespan of at least five years. Improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing, and other public spaces are eligible through the PB process.
Kicking off the funded projects in first place with 1,539 votes was a missive to plant additional street trees across the entirety of District 3. In addition to tree installation, the $150,000 project will fund information and care tags to ensure the longevity of the plants.
Next up with 1,128 votes, constituents voted to upgrade technology in libraries across the district. The $250,000 project will be used to update computers and other digital access tools.
The third project chosen with 1,070 votes was a $350,000 initiative to fund technology upgrades across District 3 schools, including the installation of new computers, smart boards (whiteboards that use touch detection for user input, have collaborative document function, and save data to cloud services), and ChromeBooks for enhanced student learning.
The final project selected? 800 votes were cast for a $350,000 upheaval of a broken air condition system at the 440 West 53rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave) Hell’s Kitchen elementary school’s auditorium. In addition to school and community meetings, the space is used as a federal, state, and district polling location.
As for what was left on the table — it looks like a $300,000 plaza renovation at Broadway and W38th to W40th Street, a $250,000 Dog Run Surface Replacement at DeWitt Clinton Park (previously petitioned by some neighbors), a $500,000 basketball court resurfacing at the Chelsea Recreation Center, a $340,000 renovation of the Reggie Fitzgerald Triangle garden in the West Village, $350,000 auditorium upgrades to the PS 3 Charrette School, and a $54,000 project to install water fountains at the Greenwich Village City-As-School may have to wait until the next cycle for funding.
If your desired project didn’t make it this time, fear not — the next funding cycle will begin in just a few months! Said Bottcher: “We are excited to bring Participatory Budgeting back in full capacity next year and have a full cycle, keep an eye out for a kick-off event in September!”