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Final Votes Cast in NYC Participatory Budgeting

By Dana Varinsky | April 6, 2014 4:57pm
 Residents of District 39 voted on participatory budgeting proposals at the Park Slope Armory YMCA on Sunday.
Residents of District 39 voted on participatory budgeting proposals at the Park Slope Armory YMCA on Sunday.
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DNAinfo/Dana Varinsky

PARK SLOPE — Residents of ten City Council districts cast their final votes Sunday to determine how to spend nearly $14 million of the city’s money, as the participatory budgeting voting period came to a close.

Voters in participating districts were able to pick five projects that they want to see funded in their neighborhoods. Proposals included improvements to parks, upgrades for school technology, and the installation of security cameras. Voting began March 30, and culminated Sunday.

“It’s good to be able to have an impact on how business is done and have a voice in budgetary decision making,” said Laura Dalheim, who voted Sunday in the 39th district, which is represented by Brad Lander.

Dalheim said she chose projects that would enhance public safety and improve the environment.

“There are a lot of loud voices so smaller voices need to be heard, too,” she said.

Lander’s district was one of the first to implement participatory budgeting. This year, 13 proposals were on the ballot, including the installation of countdown clocks on bus stations, and the acquisition of an industrial shredder that would process food scraps and leaves at the Gowanus composting center.

“Even if it’s a small portion of the budget, it’s still a way to get people involved,” said Josh Silverstein, who stood outside the Park Slope Armory YMCA on Sunday, urging people to vote for the bus clocks.

Participatory budgeting allows residents of certain City Council districts to decide how the city’s money will be spent. Each council member has discretionary funding to allocate in his or her district, which pays for salaries and services, as well as physical infrastructure improvements.

For the past three years, council members have chosen whether to allow voters to determine which infrastructure upgrades to fund. This year, residents in ten districts had the ability to propose projects such as improvements to schools, parks, libraries or public housing, and vote on which they thought were most important.

But Susie Hoffman, who voted for the first time in Park Slope on Sunday, said she was dismayed that there wouldn’t be enough money for all of the proposed projects.

“All of these things should be funded,” she said. “Why do we have to choose?”

After the votes are tallied, Council Members will submit their spending priorities, including the five winning projects in each district, to the City Council later this month.