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chelsea now: On a Hot High Line Afternoon, Participatory Budgeting Gathers Steam

September 27, 2017

By: LEVAR ALONZO
September 27, 2017

An unseasonably balmy second day of fall, mixed with excitement in the air, made for great community brainstorming on the afternoon of Sat., Sept. 23. Council District 3 representative Corey Johnson held the “Year 4 Kickoff” event for Participatory Budgeting (PB), an initiative which gives residents a hand in deciding how their tax dollars are spent by setting aside $1 million in capital funds for projects proposed, developed, and voted for by community members.

Matt Green, Councilmember Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, started the event (held on the High Line) by giving a brief overview of what PB is all about. The process, he noted, is “a great way to learn about democracy in action, and be the driving force behind real changes in the community.”

As a visual aid, Green brought along a poster that was used to campaign for one of the winning ideas from last year: $500,000 to renovate playground fencing, walkways, and garden areas at the Elliott-Chelsea Houses (10 Ave.,. btw. W. 26th & 27th Sts.). Four projects in all were funded, with the top vote-getter providing $200,000 for the creation of a park in Hell’s Kitchen (10th Ave., btw. W. 48th & 49th Sts.).

A member of the audience wanted to know how much input the councilmember’s office has throughout the process of brainstorming and voting.

“We are just here to facilitate and keep the community informed,” Green said.

After watching a short video explaining PB, those assembled broke down into five groups that rotated between five different tables, in order to share their ideas on projects they think are necessary for their community. Ideas were taken down by volunteers and representatives from the councilmember’s office on their iPads and made ready for online viewing.

Residents were encouraged to develop more proposals, get their neighbors involved, and volunteer to be delegates (individuals who help facilitate the PB process), and take leadership roles at events like project expos.

At the end of the brainstorming session, the ideas from the five tables were presented and the councilmember staffers wrapped up the event with a raffle, giving away PB T-shirts, a guided tour of the High Line, and a chance to have coffee with Johnson.

The period to submit ideas is open until Oct. 13, after which the ideas are developed into full proposals and reviewed by delegates in a series of expos held through February 2018. Voting takes place April 7-17, 2017. The winning projects will be announced in May. To submit ideas, visit council.nyc.gov/pb/participate. To contact Councilmember Johnson’s office, visit council.nyc.gov/district-3/ or call 212-564-7757.

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