NEW YORK — Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York City Council Members kicked off the voting period for New York City’s 2014-2015 participatory budgeting cycle — now the largest such process in the nation. This year, 24 Council Districts will allocate nearly $30 million citywide for residents to collaboratively develop into local capital projects through a year-long process of neighborhood assemblies, delegate meetings, and project expositions. Voting will take place at over 250 poll sites and mobile voting locations throughout the city from Saturday, April 11th through Sunday, April 19th.
“Participatory budgeting is one of our city’s most powerful tools to increase engagement and civic participation for communities who are so often voiceless when it comes public money and neighborhood development,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “From start to finish, Participatory Budgeting enables residents to creatively propose solutions to real community concerns—whether it’s a new playground, elevator repairs in public housing, or state-of the-art technology for local schools. These are only a few of the project proposals that will be voted on in the week ahead, and I encourage New Yorkers to get involved and vote for what they want to see in their neighborhoods.”
Participatory Budgeting is a grassroots process through which district residents vote directly to allocate at least $1 million in capital funding toward proposals developed by the community to meet local needs. Through a series of public meetings, residents work with elected officials throughout the year to identify neighborhood concerns and craft proposals to address them. Residents then decide which proposals to fund through a public vote.
New Yorkers can visit the New York City Council Participatory Budgeting website at council.nyc.gov/pb to find poll site locations, hours, and a map of proposed projects in their district. Residents can also text "YOUR VOTE" to 212-676-8384 to find out how to participate. Ballots for the 2014-2015 Participatory Budgeting cycle have been designed for clarity and ease of use to maximize participation, and are available in ten languages other than English—Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Polish, Greek, Haitian Creole, Bengali, Urdu and Yiddish—based on local demographics in participating districts. Several districts will also feature digital voting stations at poll sites as well as pop-up mobile voting sites on commercial strips, in community centers and building lobbies using touch-screen tablets.
Good government groups hail Participatory Budgeting as a powerful tool to increase civic participation and community engagement. Voting in Participatory Budgeting is open to all residents of participating districts 16 years of age and older, with some districts lowering the minimum voting age to 14. The sole identification requirement is proof of residency in the district, removing traditional obstacles to full civic participation such as youth, income status, English-language proficiency and citizenship status. To ensure widespread and diverse voter participation, the New York City Council conducted targeted informational outreach to low-income, NYCHA, non-English speaking, LGBT, formerly incarcerated, and Sandy-affected communities.
16,642 New Yorkers cast ballots in the previous 2013-2014 Participatory Budgeting cycle. According to the Urban Justice Center:
For the 2014-2015 cycle, twenty-four Council Members facilitated Participatory Budgeting in their districts:
"We're excited for the fourth cycle of Participatory Budgeting voting to begin! With 24 districts now participating, many more people have the chance to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. During vote week, it's important for ALL residents to get out and vote. Everyone has a voice in PB -- if you're low-income, undocumented, formerly incarcerated...you can, and should, vote too! Through PB we can increase civic engagement in our City. Through PB we give voice and power to people that too often are left out of decision-making processes in our communities,” said Lorraine Knox, Member-Leader of Community Voices Heard.
“The Council’s effort to expand Participatory Budgeting into 24 districts throughout the City is helping engage New Yorkers in a community-driven process that is empowering,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “This milestone expansion is giving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers the ability to allocate over $25 million to the projects they care about most. I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, my Council colleagues and the countless New Yorkers who have made this very important initiative a tremendous success.”
“Participatory budgeting empowers local communities and strengthens the relationship between elected officials and the people they serve,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “I was proud to be the first Council Member from Queens to give my constituents a real say in how their tax dollars are being spent and I’m thrilled that participatory budgeting has expanded citywide under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.”
"Over the last several months, my office has been working with community volunteers as they put together a list of excellent projects that will go a long way towards supporting our schools, streets and parks," stated Council Member Paul Vallone. "This type of direct community involvement is critical as we strive towards making the budget process as transparent and engaging as possible for our constituents."
“As a former civics teacher, I am proud to take part in this exercise in democracy and empower residents to have a real say over how their tax dollars are spent to improve their community. As a result of Participatory Budgeting, citizens are no longer just bystanders in the annual budget process, but are active participants who are shaping how their money is reinvested in their neighborhood. It is refreshing to know that over $20 million will be spent citywide as a direct result of community engagement and resident participation, which is a huge victory for the public and for democracy in New York City. I urge all residents to take advantage of this unique chance to have a real voice in the budget process by casting a ballot for their favorite projects,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.
“Every member of our community deserves the opportunity to speak out and express their vision for our future. By allowing young people, and immigrants to vote in participatory budgeting we are empowering every member of our community to invest in that future. In order to better our school systems, make our streets safer, incentivize environmentally friendly habits, we must have every member of our community buy into, engage with, and work towards that vision,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. “With participatory budgeting the entirety of Northern Manhattan and Marble Hill comes together to improve our communities.”
“Participatory budgeting has enabled us to engage hundreds of residents, across multiple generations and many walks of life, in meaningful decisions around the expenditure of public dollars for community needs. I am proud to have brought this innovative process to the central Bronx and look forward to seeing it expanded to our public housing developments,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing.
"In District 38, Participatory Budgeting is not a side project. In fact, its guiding principles help to focus the work of our office locally, and instruct the projects we look at legislatively. In Fiscal Year 2015, Sunset Park and Red Hook residents turned out by the thousands to support their projects which resulted in the highest rates of participation citywide--three-fourths of the ballots cast were in languages other than English. The enfranchising effect of this process--especially for undocumented people, young people, and other historically disconnected populations--is unlike any other we have currently, and cannot be underestimated. The model before us has the potential change the discourse of civic participation dramatically, and will continue to have important implications on the state of the relations between local communities and their government. I congratulate Speaker Mark-Viverito for continue to make this program a priority, and for deploying the resources necessary to ensure its success," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.
“Participatory Budgeting gives my neighbors a direct voice in how their tax dollars are spent on projects that will address community needs. It is my hope that through this process, we will be able to give City residents more confidence in government and increase civic engagement. The more participation and higher turnout we have will ensure that our communities will benefit in the long run. I look forward to meeting everyone at the voting booths next week,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.
"I am thrilled to be engaging in my third year of Participatory. One of the many things I love about Participatory Budgeting is that it allows the residents--the ones who really know what their neighborhoods need-- to have a direct say in the budget. When I was elected into office in 2010, I promised my constituents a more transparent budgeting process. I am thrilled to be upholding that commitment in many ways including through Participatory Budgeting,” said Council Member David Greenfield.
"Residents of New York have stepped up once again to make this year's process a success and demonstrate the possibility for true collaboration between elected officials and their constituents," said Meg Wade, Operations Manager for the Participatory Budgeting Project, a national non-profit leading participatory budgeting in North America. "We are excited to see PBNYC build a model for transforming democracy by making participatory budgeting core to how government works."
“Our research has demonstrated that PB is a unique civic participation opportunity which engages diverse community members, many of whom have barriers to voting in regular elections. Participants learn about community needs, gain new insight into government and work with one another in new ways. This year PB has expanded significantly, with the participation of nearly half the New York City Council districts and centralized support from the office of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. We anticipate historic numbers of PB voters this year, and look forward to the launch of the vote,” said Urban Justice Center.
Council Member Costa Constantinides said, "Participatory Budgeting has given members of the community the opportunity to have a say in how we spend taxpayer dollars in our neighborhood and has shown our volunteers what the city budgeting process is like. This process has been rewarding for our entire district. Everyone has worked together to make sure Participatory Budgeting succeeds - whether it's through being budget delegates, through spreading the word about projects, or through volunteering during voting week. Most importantly, our community has been empowered on a grassroots level. I thank everyone who has been involved and I look forward to a successful voting week."
“Participatory Budgeting gives New Yorkers a chance to make real change in their community. Together we are making local government more transparent and democratic by having residents develop and then vote on projects that will improve their community. I’m excited for this year’s vote and look forward to seeing which projects win in the 33rdDistrict and throughout New York City,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.
"Participatory budgeting is a unique process that empowers the community by giving residents a real say in how public dollars are spent in the district. I encourage all residents to vote and to spread the word about PB so that this year, we have the biggest voter turnout yet," said Council Member Mark S. Weprin.
"For the Upper West Side, Participatory Budgeting is revelatory. Residents are intrigued and engaged with the notion that every resident should have an equal voice and an equal vote in how their tax dollars are spent in their neighborhood.Who knows a neighborhood better than the people who live there? I am proud to have brought PB to the Upper West Side for the first time, and I look forward to seeing which projects win the vote and get funded," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
"I am excited that the people of District 45 have continued to show their support for participatory budgeting, and look forward to a fourth successful year," said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. "Participatory budgeting has been an empowering form of open democracy which has not only gained momentum within our own neighborhood, but has continued to expand citywide. For the past three years, PB has served as a great tool to build up school infrastructures and fund capital projects District 45 constituents find most important. As we enter our fourth year, I look forward to seeing more people getting involved and voting this week so that these projects continue to improve our community in very real ways."
“Participatory Budgeting engages people from all backgrounds in the governing process to generate ideas to improve their neighborhoods. Many of the innovative, locally driven initiatives that have emerged from this process would not have come to light without community input,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “This exercise in civic participation fosters the kind of collaboration between residents and local leaders needed to create a more inclusive and transparent government. I am proud to offer the residents of the 7th Council District the chance to decide how $1 million of their own tax dollars will be spent for the very first time.”
“Democracy doesn’t get much better than participatory budgeting,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “PBNYC is truly ‘revolutionary civics in action,’ and the New York City Council is proud to be at the forefront. We’ve seen incredible growth since we started four years ago. Every year new leaders come forward, new ideas are proposed, new young people get involved in the political process, thousands of residents come out to vote, and great new projects get underway. We’ve fixed flooded paths in Prospect Park, restored decrepit bathrooms in our public schools, made our streets safer, and brought new technology and cultural space to our libraries. More than that: we’ve restored faith in democracy as a grassroots process that lets the voices of our residents be heard, and lets people step up together as stewards of our shared public realm. What could be better?”
“Participatory Budgeting has been a great opportunity for members of my community to come up with creative ideas, learn about how the City budget process works, and work together on neighborhood improvements. I’m excited to get out the vote next week and make sure that everyone in my district has a chance to weigh in on what projects they would like to see funded,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.
"This year, District Five residents will vote on green roofs in schools, increased security for NYCHA, STEM education tools, esplanade improvements and much more. The process has been driven by community members, and empowers and activates residents around the issues that matter to them," said Council Member Ben Kallos.
"D21 is honored to be partnering with the City Council as we deliver New Yorkers their first-ever digital ballot for PB," said Lex Paulson, international counselor to the Democracy 2.1 project. "We hope this is the first year of a long partnership to help make New York the most innovative, inclusive and successful PB process in the world."
"Our mission is to scale up collaboration and decision-making. We envision an era in which large communities can deliberate and brainstorm with one another on important issues with the aid of intelligently designed algorithms and digital communication platforms. We are fortunate to partner with the City of New York in this participatory budgeting cycle. The forward thinking, the willingness to innovate, and the commitment to inclusive democracy that we see from the city has been a great motivator for our team,” said Ashish Goel, Stanford University Professor and leader of the Stanford Crowdsourced Democracy Team.