HAMILTON HEIGHTS — The people have spoken and what they want most are more trees, a greenhouse and playground and basketball court repairs.
More than 2,300 Hamilton Heights residents voted on how to spend $1.3 million in capital funds to improve their neighborhood, according to City Councilman Mark Levine's website.
“All in all great, great news for our community," said resident Anthony Carrion, who volunteered in the housing and community committee. "They were all great projects but it seems like the community preferred projects geared more for kids and youth for having them things to do.”
The four winning projects include $450,000 for major renovations at the Grant Houses playgrounds, $300,000 for planting 10 trees and installing tree guards around the Grant Houses, $500,000 for surface repairs to basketball courts and a play area used by neighborhood kids and P.S 125, Columbia Secondary School, and Kipp Star, and $50,000 for a public greenhouse at Frank White Memorial Garden.
Although this was only the district's first year involved with participatory budgeting, the community was very active, Councilman Levine said.
“It exceeded out expectations in every way from the number of volunteers that came out, the incredible diversity, originality and strength of the ideas,” he said.
Levine's office originally committed at least $1 million to fund the winning project but increased it to $1.3 million because of the quality of the proposals.
“We thought it was worth expanding the pot a little bit.," Levine said. "We think this is a good investment and the best way to spend the money."
Carrion, who also volunteered in the voting sites was pleasantly surprised by how many people showed up.
“There was a strong showing," he said "We had a lot of traffic. Not just older residents, but some younger people as well. It was a diverse group.”
The public greenhouse, one of the winning projects, was designed by children in an environmental program run by the Brotherhood/Sister Sol. It will be able to hold a classroom and will be equipped with an hydroponics system, an edible wall that produces food year-round, composting and a solar power system, according to Nando Rodriguez, the organization's Environment Coordinator.
Some of the projects that did not receive funding include electrical upgrades to Hamilton Grange, Bloomingdale, and Morningside Heights libraries; lighting upgrades at Hamilton Place and Amsterdam Avenue; and a computer lab upgrade at PS 163.