From Books to Bathrooms, Participatory Budgeting Voting Kicks Off in Three Brooklyn Council Districts

From Books to Bathrooms, Participatory Budgeting Voting Kicks Off in Three Brooklyn Council Districts
Left to right: Stephen Levin (CD33), Carlos Menchaca (CD38) and Brad Lander (CD39)

After a pandemic-induced pause, the city’s participatory budgeting program is restarted yesterday in three Brooklyn City Council districts.

Participatory budgeting, a City Council-run program that allows members of the public to propose and develop community projects before voting on which ones to fund, was suspended last March as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the city.

The programs, which was launched in 2011, technically remains suspended. And a fledgling citywide program, created by voters through referendum in 2018, hasn’t been fully rolled out, due to a pandemic-related emergency executive order issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio last April.

But two weeks ago, three Democratic Brooklyn Council Members—Stephen Levin (CD33), Carlos Menchaca (CD38) and Brad Lander (CD39)—along with Ben Kallos from Manhattan, announced they’d commit a combined total of over $4.5 million to fund projects through the program in their own districts this summer.

“This pandemic has shown the many inequities of our city and how our friends and neighbors have risen up to fill the needs that they know are there,” Levin said in a statement announcing the move. “There is no more important time to continue the PB process and allocate funding to street level, community suggested projects that fill the needs of our community.”

From now through April 14th, any resident aged 11 or older in those Council Districts will be able to vote for project proposals in their area on this website.

Here’s what’s on the ballot:

Council District 33 (Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Greenpoint, Williamsburg) – Learn more here

Levin’s office has designated a total of $30,000 to participatory budgeting projects. All of them are expense, rather than capital, projects. Residents can vote online anytime through April 14th, or in-person on April 10-11 at to-be-announced locations.

Gardening at Warren, Wyckoff, and Gowanus ($10,000) – Residents at Warren Street Houses, Gowanus Houses, and Wyckoff Gardens would work with Gowanus Canal Conservancy to purchase tools and materials to take care of community gardens.

Newtown Creek Street End Cleanups ($8,500) – This Newtown Creek Alliance project would keep pollution from entering the waterway, enhance ecological function through the management of invasive species and planting of native plants, as well as improve the community’s connection to the Creek.

Family STEM+Art Projects in Brooklyn Parks ($6,750) – The Beam Center’s 5-event mobile workshop involves exploring science in the park: tools, tech, crafts, hands-on learning and more. Kids create magical crafts to take home.

Fine Arts Studio for Elementary Students at P.S.31 Samuel F. Dupont ($10,000) – This project would create a fine arts studio stocked with paint brushes and paints, papers and creative media, mechanical pencils/pens, graphite, charcoal, and other art supplies.

Programs for Thomas Greene Park ($5,000) – Funding for Friends of Thomas Greene Park would help run their annual events, including the ‘Gowanus Grind’, ‘Halloween Parade’, It’s My Park Day (park cleanup) and a mural planned for the Douglass Street wall.

Intro to Trade Careers for Our Youth ($10,000) – Townsquare would partner with IS 318 and the Williamsburg High School for Architecture & Design to run workshops to introduce students to professionals, unions and companies working in construction, drafting, electricians, plumbing, welding and more.

Taylor-Wythe Food Pantry ($10,000) – Los Sures and El Puente are partnering with volunteers and community residents to establish a food pantry at Taylor-Wythe to address food insecurity. Funding would allow them to purchase equipment, transportation, and supplies to make the food distribution available on a regular basis with fresh produce and other healthy items.

Increase Kids’ Book Access & Ownership ($5,000) – Funding would allow the Brooklyn Book Bodega to distribute 5,000 high-interest free books to kids and teens that are theirs to keep, along with reading tip sheets to support reading engagement.

Keep Our Trees Healthy ($6,000) – Greenpoint Tree Care would offer blending tree care, litter collection, and community education, this project will help beautify streets across District 33.

Help Maintain Our Parks ($10,000) – Funding would allow the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance to support volunteer stewardship in our parks and playgrounds through the purchase of supplies and equipment, including plant material, garbage bags, rakes, shovels, and other gardening tools.

Cultural Programming at Gowanus Houses ($8,000) – Residents will organize cultural programming through collective decision-making as the neighborhood prepares for the renovation and reopening of the Gowanus Community Center, as part of a partnership between the Gowanus Houses Residents Association, the Gowanus Houses Events Planning Steering Committee, and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY.

Council District 38 (Red Hook, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, Dyker Heights, Boro Park) – Vote here

Menchaca’s office has designated $2 million for capital funding for his district. Voters can select up to three projects. Residents can vote online anytime through April 14th.

P.S. 10 WiFi Project ($100K) – Updating decades old technology: rewiring the WiFi reception in P.S. 10 and K290 to fix signal problems to ensure a better experience for both students and staff.

Schoolyard Update at P.S. 69 ($500K) – Installing additional schoolyard gate openings, outdoor lighting and new basketball hoops to ensure the schoolyard is safe to use.

AV Room/Speaker System Upgrade for Summit Academy Charter School & PS 676 ($650K) – Upgrading the audio communication system will allow for the necessary communication between students, teachers, families and community programs that utilize PS 676 both for daily needs and in the event of a school emergency such as a fire.

Plant 100 New Trees on Third Avenue ($180K) – Plant 100 new trees to reduce air pollution from the Gowanus Expressway, and improve public health.

New Tree with Tree Guards ($260K) – Beautify blocks across the district by planting new trees with tree guards in front of homes, businesses & parks.

Security Cameras Along 7th Avenue/Sunset Park ($600K) – Installation of security cameras along 7th avenue, pending a study by the NYPD.

Council District 39 (Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Kensington) – Learn more here

Capital Projects

Renovate Handball Courts at Greenwood Playground ($750K) – Renovate the crumbling Greenwood Playground handball wall to create a usable, safe wall.

PS131 Bathroom Renovations ($650K) – Update and renovate up to four of the bathrooms at a Title I school which serves students from largely low-income immigrant families.

Prospect Park Children Corner Improvements ($425K) – Restore the carousel’s historic Wurlitzer organ, replace the broken water fountain with a new ADA compliant fountain/bottle filler, and repave deteriorated pathways to be safe and accessible.

MS 51 Dance Floor Refurbishment ($300K) – Upgrade the worn out dance floor at this arts-based middle school.

Downpayment to Create the Brooklyn Skate Garden, ($300K) – Create an “innovative, inclusive, world-class skatepark & garden greenspace” in Brooklyn.

Expense Projects

Redesign Prospect Park Drive ($15,000) – This study by DOT and the Prospect Park Alliance would identify changes needed to make Prospect Park’s roadway most useful for walkers, joggers, cyclists, and folks on scooters now that cars are prohibited. This could include restriping the roadway, adding more crosswalks, as well as other changes.

Pop-up Programs to Transform Open Streets ($8,000) – Street Lab would offer ten days of open streets programs for youth and families such as their PLAY NYC program (a no-touch obstacle course), READ NYC, a portable reading room, DRAW NYC, a portable drawing studio, and Homework Hubs.

Neighborhood Farm Stand + Women’s Crafts Outlet ($20,000) – People in Need will help address food insecurity by providing access to fresh farm stand produce in southern Kensington, as well as a place for local women to earn income and gain financial independence by selling their own crafts.

More Trees for Kensington Streets ($7,000) – NYC Street Tree Consortium would plant approximately twelve new street and community trees in Kensington. Street trees will be planted in existing beds. Community trees are planted in containers and live on public property like schools, libraries, building courtyards, and parks.

Mobile STEAM (STEM+Art) Family Projects ($6,570) – Mobile STEAM Workshops with the Beam Center Truck: Activating imagination & exploring science in outdoor learning settings such as open streets, playgrounds or parks across District 39.

Kensington Tenant Rights ($15,400) – Fifth Avenue Committee would create and distribute a multi-lingual “Know Your Rights” brochure for tenants in six languages represented in Kensington: Spanish, Bengali, Urdu, Hebrew, Russian, and Uzbek.

Furnish Teen Spaces at Two Libraries ($10,000) –The Pacific Street and Park Slope branches of the Brooklyn Public Library would receive furniture to create inviting spaces.

Community Garden Concerts ($5,000) – Brooklyn-based artists + musicians would perform in this series of live, outdoor musical pop-ups in District 39 community gardens sponsored by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

100,000 Eco-Friendly Diapers for Families in Need ($10,000) – The Brooklyn Diaper Project would expand their current work with existing nonprofit organizations to pilot a new model of direct-to-community diaper distribution in District 39, working with existing public sites to form a network of support and awareness for diaper need and provide aid freely and directly to those in need.