Residents Vote to Decide How to Spend $1 Million

Home Brooklyn Life Residents Vote to Decide How to Spend $1 Million
Stefan Doyno/


Updated:  April 8, 2013  2 p.m.


What would you do if you had one million dollars? How would you improve your neighborhood?

These are some of the questions a group of city council members, including Brooklyn’s Brad Lander, are asking their constituents via participatory budgeting, a year-old program in which citizens vote directly for projects they want to see funded. This is the second year of participatory budgeting in New York City, and in District 39, there are 24 fresh ideas ranging from beautification of parks to upgrading technology for underserved schools. The ballots are divided into five sections: education, youth, environment, parks and recreation, and transit.

Residents of the district, which includes: Borough Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Kensington, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, will vote today and through the weekend on their five favorite ideas, turning these ideas into a reality. The results should be announced Monday.  (Brooklyn’s District 33, which covers many waterfront neighborhoods along the East River is also voting.)

Alex Moore, Councilman Brad Lander’s communications director says that last year 2213 people came out to vote and believes that participatory budgeting will go on for a third year. “The constituents love it,” Moore says.

Last year, seven projects were successfully funded, including a renovation of two dysfunctional bathrooms at PS 124. More than 950 residents voted for the project, which received $165,000 and was completed this past January. This month, 100 new trees will be planted throughout the community thanks to 767 votes. Community members are voicing their opinions and making a difference. Moore explains that neighborhood assemblies of around 100 people meet to contribute their ideas. This year they had around 600 ideas to improve the community. Those ideas are whittled down to about 50, which are then sent to the city agencies that will determine the estimated costs of each project. The budget delegate committees will ultimately chose the final ideas that end up on the ballot.

Stefan Doyno/
Stefan Doyno/

Aimee Grodanz, a real estate agent for City-Apt Group says that improving the neighborhood and the schools will help bring more outsiders into the ever-growing area.

“I like to see money going to schools and parks,” she says, but perhaps, even more importantly, she likes the idea that teenagers are involved with the process. The minimum age to vote for this project is 16, allowing many high school students to get involved in their community and the decisions being made. “If you take your child to vote, it shows them how important it really is. It’s voting you can visibly see,” Grodanz says.

Evelin Nieves, of Park Slope. “It shows them that their vote counts.” Nieves  is a teacher’s aide for pre-k students, and much like other residents in the area, that she too had no idea that voting was happening this week, but she says she will now vote and even has some ideas for next year. “I go to Prospect Park a lot, and I’m always looking for a bench to sit on,” Nieves says while looking at the additional bench proposal which would utilize $40,000.

She also thinks a community center for teens would keep them out of trouble during the summer months, and would like to see money go towards a new movie theater. “The one we have right now in the neighborhood is pretty lousy.”

While a new movie theater is not a proposal right now, the community might see the next Steven Spielberg one day. The John Jay High School Campus Media and Filmmaking Lab proposal, if approved, would put $100,000 towards a computer lab and auditorium projector and will provide state-of-the-art technology and student filmmaking programs for four schools. “I think it’s great for schools to have more skills classes, especially filmmaking,” Nieves says.

Virginia Olivera, who lives in Brooklyn Heights but travels to Park Slope regularly, says that her concerns are more on community safety. “I’d like to see more security cameras at the train station. When you wait you don’t see much security – especially on the R.”

One proposal suggests putting $200,000 towards enhancing community safety by installing four highly visible security cameras in each of the district’s four police precincts, especially near Prospect Park. Olivera also believes technology plays such an important role in today’s society that an upgrade for an underserved school is a great way to spend community money.

While early voting took place at Councilman Brad Lander’s district office at 456 Fifth Ave. from Tuesday to Thursday, there is still time to vote. The regular voting schedule is as follows:

Saturday, April 6th: Carroll Gardens Library, 396 Clinton Street (at Union Street) – 10 AM – 7 PM, Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street (in Washington Park) – 10 AM – 7 PM, Kings Bay Y at Windsor Terrace, 1224 Prospect Avenue (at Vanderbilt Street) – 10 AM – 7 PM

Sunday, April 7th: Beth Jacob, 1371 46th Street (at 14th Avenue) – 10 AM – 5 PM, PS 230 Lower School, 425 McDonald Ave (between Church Ave & Albemarle Rd) – 10 AM – 5 PM, Park Slope Armory YMCA, 361 15th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue) 10 AM – 5 PM, Carroll Park House, Carroll Street and Smith Street (in Carroll Park)  – 10 AM – 5 PM

Click here to view the full ballot for 2013.


This year 2,812 people voted, which is 599 more voters than in 2012. Here are the winning Participatory Budgeting projects for 2013: 

PS 230: Help Kids Connect & Learn With Technology which will install 34 Smartboards with supporting MacBooks in high-needs, diverse (25+ home languages) school serving 1,300 students, this will receive $180,000. The Renovation of 8 Bathrooms at PS 58, The Carroll School which will provide healthier environment for generations to come by replacing fixtures & flushing mechanisms. The last renovation was in 1954. This will receive $110,000. Carroll Gardens/Windsor Terrace Library Computers  29 new adult & preschool computers at these branches to support community needs for internet access & computer literacy, this will receive $75,000. Church Avenue Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Improvements – Extend sidewalks and reduce crossing distances on Church Avenue at Coney Island Avenue and McDonald Avenue intersections. This will cost $300,000. PS 179: Technology upgrade for underserved school – 27 SmartBoards for high-needs school to aid learning for English language learners, special education and gifted students. This will cost $115,000 and 3rd Street Green Corridor: New Trees, Less Runoff – 10 trees with enhanced pits will improve storm drainage, and add shade and beauty in Gowanus from Bond Street to 3rd Avenue which will cost $170,000.




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