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It’s Time to Vote on How to Spend Your Council Member’s Money

For the fifth year, New Yorkers can vote via participatory budgeting on which projects should receive discretionary funds earmarked for their City Council districts. This time around, a record 30 council members are asking constituents how to spend their discretionary budgets. Voting began this past weekend and runs through Sunday.

Participatory budgeting is happening this week in 30 council districts. Image: NYC Council
Participatory budget voting is happening this week in 30 council districts. Image: NYC Council
Participatory budgeting is happening this week in 30 council districts. Image: NYC Council

Instead of the old, opaque, scandal-prone method of distributing discretionary funds, under participatory budgeting residents in each district can choose from a list of projects that council staff approved to be on the ballot. You can find your district’s voting locations and ballot items on the council’s participatory budgeting website.

There are transit and street safety projects on ballots across the city -- mostly small-scale capital improvements like curb extensions or bus countdown clocks. Funding these projects through participatory budgeting can expand or accelerate related work that's underway, or create momentum for initiatives that haven't been a high priority for city agencies. And a strong showing for streets- or transit-related projects demonstrates the public appetite for these types of changes in general.

Here's a look at some of the bigger street safety projects on PB ballots this time around.

Meeker Avenue Safety Improvements

For almost a year, members of Transportation Alternatives’ Brooklyn activist committee have been advocating for safety improvements along Meeker Avenue, the service road slicing through north Brooklyn beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. DOT has a proposal currently on the table at Community Board 1 to improve pedestrian crossings around Macri Triangle Park at Union and Metropolitan Avenues. On the PB ballot for residents of the 33rd council district, represented by Steve Levin, is $400,000 for "continuing safety improvements along this high-speed corridor to decrease crossing distances and improve pedestrian safety." This funding would cover pedestrian safety improvements beyond the scope of the current DOT project, though exact locations have yet to be determined.

Cherry Walk Safety Improvements

The “Cherry Walk” is the section of the Hudson River Greenway that runs from 100th Street to 125th Street. Its shoddy pavement and poor lighting create hazards for nighttime biking especially. A proposal on the ballot in Council Member Mark Levine's district would put $150,000 toward new lighting and partial reconstruction of the path. In an email to TA’s Manhattan activist committee, Community Board 7 member Ken Coughlin said that while he is pursuing a complete renovation of the path, this smaller project would make important improvements, including “badly needed interim repairs” and new reflective paint along the path to help guide cyclists at night.

Sidewalk expansion on Prospect Park Southwest

This project on the ballot in the 39th district, represented by Council Member Brad Lander, would allocate $500,000 to building out the sidewalk at the intersection of Prospect Park Southwest and 16th Street, replacing what is now cross-hatched markings. The project would improve pedestrian access to the park and to bus stops on Prospect Park Southwest.

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