OP-ED: Let’s Spend $1 Million Together

Written by West Side Spirit on . Posted in News West Side Spirit.


rosenthal op-ed_fmtThis is going to be an exciting year: You are about to decide how to spend $1 million in city money to improve the Upper West Side.

With $1 million you could build playgrounds, repave basketball courts, buy new computers for schools, install security cameras, plant trees or a community garden, replace streetlamps, and more. Your task is to find problems around the neighborhood and brainstorm solutions. How could you make life on the Upper West Side safer, greener, and easier? How could you improve our streets, schools, libraries, parks, bus stops, and public housing?

The key ingredient is you. You have a say in which projects should be considered, developed and voted on for funding. I set aside $1 million of our district’s discretionary funds for this process: participatory budgeting. My office will facilitate meetings and provide the supplies and information you need. We’re counting on you for the ideas and bringing out people to vote.

Last year, 10 of my colleagues in City Council implemented participatory budgeting in their districts. They had great results in terms of participation and projects funded. Residents on the Upper East Side voted to install electronic countdown clocks at westbound cross-town bus stops along the M96, M86, M79 and M66 routes, so they know when the next bus will arrive ($300,000). In the Rockaways, voters decided to fund ADA-compliant swing sets for children with special needs at multiple playgrounds ($150,000). In Brooklyn Heights, residents chose to fund bathroom renovations at PS 261 ($175,000), and in Red Hook, voters put funding toward improving streets and resurfacing roads ($350,000). All of these projects and dozens more will be funded this year and built over the next few years.

There are a few rules: projects need to pay for physical infrastructure, or “bricks and mortar” improvements; they need to improve public spaces; and they must cost at least $35,000. To vote on the projects, you need to live in the district and be over 16 years of age. Beyond that, anything is up for discussion. You don’t even have to live in the district to be a leader and help us develop projects.

This process only works if you and your neighbors and friends in District 6 get involved. My office is hosting three information sessions in June (two are listed below), and I hope you’ll come. You’ll learn more about Participatory Budgeting and be able to volunteer to lead us through the six-month process. You don’t need an advanced degree or years of experience in urban planning to be a leader in this project – just the expertise you already have by being an Upper West Sider.

Let’s spend $1 million together.

Council-member Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side

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