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Participatory Budgeting: Your Chance to Vote for Livable Streets

5:05 PM EDT on March 25, 2015

A record 24 City Council members have launched participatory budgeting efforts this year, giving local residents a say in how to spend a share of the council's discretionary capital funds. Starting last fall, volunteers and staff spent months refining proposals and suggestions. Council members are now releasing sample ballots so the public can learn more about the projects before voting for their favorites in the coming weeks.

Of the City Council's 51 districts, 24 (in black) have participatory budgeting ballots. Map: NYC Council

For a sample of what can be found on PB ballots, here are the livable streets projects up for a vote in two council districts in Western Queens.

We start in District 22, represented by Costa Constantinides, covering Astoria, Steinway, and the northwest corner of Jackson Heights. Voting will be open from April 13 to 19 and residents can vote for up to five of the 18 projects on the ballot [PDF]. There are two livable streets projects under consideration:

    • Newtown Plaza: This project would provide $400,000 to redesign Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 33rd streets to include a pedestrian plaza. A proposal from DOT to install a plaza at this location was rejected by Community Board 1 almost three years ago.
    • 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard: This project would provide $500,000 to fund the installation of curb extensions at this complex, multi-leg intersection. The Department of City Planning recommended neckdowns and pedestrian islands for this location, but they were not included in DOT's safety plan for 21st Street.

Work on selecting which proposals would make it to the ballot began last October. "Our budget delegates have worked through the city budget process from a grassroots level and have been empowered to make decisions that will better our community," Constantinides said in a press release. "For the first time, anyone in the district can directly make decisions about how taxpayer money is spent."

Just to the south lies District 26, represented by Jimmy Van Bramer, covering Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside. Voting will be open from April 11 to 19 [PDF] and residents can vote for up to three of the 27 projects on the ballot [PDF]. There are a handful of livable streets projects under consideration:

    • Broadway street trees: This project would provide $200,000 for the Parks Department to install street trees on Broadway between 49th and 69th Streets in Woodside. A section of this part of Broadway received a traffic-calming road diet last year.
    • Real-time bus information: This project would provide $100,000 to fund the installation of five real-time countdown clocks at bus stops in the 26th District. (Van Bramer's office says the exact locations are to be determined and will be based on need.)
    • Bus bulbs in Dutch Kills: This project would provide $300,000 for the installation of curb extensions at bus stops on the corners of 31st Street at 36th and 39th avenues. These bus bulbs will ease access for buses and provide more pedestrian space near entrances to the elevated train.
    • Long Island City bikeway: This project would provide $500,000 for upgrades to the waterfront bikeway in Long Island City. Currently, there is a two-way buffered bike lane on sections of Vernon Boulevard.

“The proposals span a wide variety of community capital projects that residents truly care about. This has truly been a community driven process from the beginning," Van Bramer said in a press release. "Now is the time for you to exercise your power and vote on the projects you love the most!”

To see whether your council member offers participatory budgeting and for more information on how to vote, check the City Council website.

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