July 1, 2014 By Christian Murray
Residents of Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City will soon have a direct say on how $1 million in city funds will be spent in the district.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who each year allocates city funds on local parks, clubs and schools, plans on introducing participatory budgeting in the 2015/2016 fiscal year, where about 30% of the discretionary funds he receives will be put in the hands of the community to spend.
Next week, Van Bramer will be hosting two “Participatory budget information session” —one in Sunnyside, the other in Queensbridge–to explain to residents how the process works and how individuals should put forward their ideas for the neighborhood. (see meeting details below)
The participatory budgeting program allows residents to determine where to allocate funds for capital projects in the district. The community might decide to spend funds on, say, improving a Long Island City park to funding a Woodside dog run.
The process involves holding a series of town hall meetings and workshops where residents present their ideas to the community and a vote is held on whether an item is worth funding.
“I’m excited by this,” Van Bramer said when he announced it at a Community Board 2 meeting earlier this year. “It is a community driven process that allows people to vote,” he said at the time. “It is a way to increase transparency.”
Van Bramer said he was reluctant to allow the community to vote on all–or most–of the discretionary funds the district is allotted. He said that some groups that are not as well organized might be overlooked in the process. However, he said at time, he would monitor how it works out and would make changes accordingly.