May 3, 2018 By Tara Law
Residents voted to spend $350,000 on bus countdown clocks, $500,000 on school bathroom renovations, and $120,000 on water fountains–when they went to the polls last month to determine how $1 million of city capital should be spent in the 29th Council District through a process called participatory budgeting.
Councilmember Karen Koslowitz announced the three winning projects that will be funded–out of eight put up for a vote–on Facebook last night.
The eight proposals that made the ballot were put together by a volunteer committee who reviewed ideas put forward by the public at meetings last year.
The winning projects will be funded as part of the 2019 city budget. The projects will go through a scoping, procurement and construction process over the next two to four years.
This was a record year for the 29th Council District in terms of votes cast, with nearly 3,300 constituents submitting ballots, up from 2,500 last year, according Alex Anderson, a spokesperson for Koslowitz’ office. Participatory budgeting has taken place in the district since 2015.
The citywide participatory budgeting voting age was lowered from 14 to 11 this year, which is likely to have contributed to the higher turnout, Anderson said.
Koslowitz’s office, for instance, had polling sites at junior high schools to encourage more children to participate.
Although some members of the community were concerned about the impact of allowing younger children to participate, Anderson said that the program was intended to encourage kids to be more civically engaged.
“The kids loved it,” Anderson said. “They would come running up to the polling tables to say, ‘I already voted.’”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of the projects chosen by participatory budgeting voters will take place at schools.
A total of 1,878 residents voted to allocate $500,000 toward the renovation of bathrooms at P.S. 220, 101, 54, 139 and 206. The schools are located at 62-10 108th St, 2 Russell Place, 86-02 127 St., 330 Rugby Rd., and 61-02 98 Street, respectively.
Voters decided to allocate $120,000 toward school fountains that will include water bottle fill stations. The fountains will be installed at P.S. 144 and 196, as well as at Forest Hills High School. The schools are located at 93-02 69th Ave., 71-25 113th St and 67-01 110th St. respectively. This project generated 1,883 votes.
Finally, 1,632 votes were cast to install ten bus countdown clocks in the district with $350,000 of funding. The project has been on the participatory budget ballot for three years. Although the project came close in each of the previous years, this is the first year it won said Anderson.
The clocks will be installed at locations selected by the Department of Transportation, with preference given to the Q60, Q64 and Q23 lines.