Tracie Hunte, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Tracie Hunte is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC Newsroom.
Some Brooklyn and Manhattan community members who had a hand in choosing the projects to finance in their neighborhoods will soon find out how $1 million of their tax dollars will be spent.
For the past week, residents in four council districts have been voting whether to fund projects they submitted as part of a process called participatory budgeting.
The process gives volunteers an up-close look at the sometimes frustrating process of getting things done in city government – a City Council initiative that began in four districts last fall.
Sunday is the last day to vote in Brooklyn Council District 39, where about 1,500 people are expected to vote. Results are expected Monday.
Residents of Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Borough Park, Kensington and Windsor Terrace will choose from among 20 different projects ranging from renovating meeting rooms at the Carroll Gardens Library, soundproofing a school cafeteria or paying for a composting system near Gowanus Canal.
Residents in District 39 submitted more than 800 projects online and at neighborhood meetings.
Volunteers called “budget delegates” were then split up into committees and charged with vetting ideas and working with city agencies to judge the feasibility of the project and cost. No project could cost more than $500,000.
“[It’s] very interesting to learn how many different rules and requirements that public officials have to work with in order to get things done. You see how it's really a very complicated process,” said budget delegate and Borough Park resident Michael Fettman.
His committee, Sidewalks and Streets, recommended three projects including re-paving 50th Street, which runs through Sunset Park, Borough Park and Flatbush.
Sarah Nordmann of Carroll Gardens is a Budget Delegate with the transit committee. She calls participatory budgeting “inherently inefficient.”
“They're all these different committees. Everyone's gunning for their own projects as hard as they can, so they're a lot more man hours put into it than normally would,” Nordmann said.
Her committee eventually recommended three projects: BusTime Count-Down Clocks, Help Points at F/G Subway Stations and installing plants to absorb excess run-off at the Ft. Hamilton F/G Subway Stop.
Brendan Flynn of Gowanus says he was initially concerned about what he called the “messiness of everyone coming in with their pet ideas and fighting over it in a room.”
But he says his experience was ultimately very positive.
“Instead of saying not in my backyard to actually want to do positive things in your community is a lot better ultimately,” Flynn said.
Voters don’t have to be registered. They just need ID and proof of residency in the district. A copy of the ballot and a list of voting locations can be found here.