Spending City Money on the East Side

Written by Daniel Fitzsimmons on . Posted in News Our Town.


District 5 residents will vote on how to use $1 million of discretionary budget funding

Residents of District 5 have just been handed a blank check.

Councilman Ben Kallos announced his office is taking part in an abbreviated participatory budgeting program with $1 million available to spend.

Under normal circumstances, a council member taking part in participatory budgeting – where constituents vote on how to spend a certain amount of money in the district – gets seven months to hear and vote on proposals from the community. Because Kallos took office in January, however, the process is being expedited.

“The process is shorter and includes pre-approved city projects awaiting funding rather than the usual process of community members conceiving of projects, which then go through the city approval process,” said spokesperson Sarah Anders. “Most first-term council members are not including a participatory element of their discretionary funds this cycle.”

Kallos’ office received 14 proposals from the parks, environmental protection, transportation, education, consumer affairs and health departments, as well as the city’s School Construction Authority, the New York Public Library and the New York City Housing Authority.

Residents in City Council District 5, provided they are 16 years of age or older, will get five votes to use on different proposals. Voting is open from March 31 to April 5, and residents can vote at the district office at East 93rd Street and 2nd Avenue from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Other voting times and locations are available on www.BenKallos.com.

Anders said another round of participatory budgeting will take place next budget cycle. Policy Director Paul Westrick said that process will begin this summer and will feature proposal expos where the community can present their ideas.

At the Lexington Houses, a 448-unit NYCHA-administrated development on East 98th Street where representatives from Kallos’ office gave a presentation on participatory budgeting, a proposal is up to replace each tenants’ refrigerator and oven.

Rebecca Mead, treasurer of the tenants’ association, said she’s been working to mobilize residents to vote in favor of the proposal as new appliances are sorely needed in the development.

“They’re out of date and half of them are broken,” said Mead of tenants’ refrigerators and ovens. “It’s a big issue for us.”

Mead said she called as many people as she could to come to the participatory budgeting presentation, and was heartened by the turnout of about 15 tenants.

“It’s a little hard. But when you tell people that maybe there’s a chance for them to become involved in their own well-being they will come out,” said Mead. “We’re trying to get people out here and take part and make a difference in their own community.”

How should $1 million be spent in your community?

Below are the 14 proposals for community projects in City Council District 5. The number of proposals that can pass is as many as possible until the $1 million is accounted for. For more information on the proposals, and when and where to vote, visit www.BenKallos.com.

• Renovate the basketball courts at John Jay Park – $400,000

• Replace the sprinklers at St. Catherine’s Park – $200,000

• Install new irrigation system to water Ruppert Park’s greenery – $100,000

• Install handrails at Carl Schurz Park – $80,000

• Upgrade the New York Public Library 67th Street branch security system – $40,000

• Replace the New York Public Library 67th Street branch cooling system – $500,000

• Replace the New York Public Library 67th Street branch heating system – $500,000

• Upgrade the Webster Library electrical system for higher capacity, more access to computers – $300,000

• Replace the Webster Library heating and cooling system – $500,000

• Purchase Toolcat multi-purpose maintenance machine for district parks – $65,000

• Improve street safety along East 86th Street corridor – Unknown

• Replace and install play area equipment, plantings and seating at Isaacs Houses – $700,000

• New fridges and stoves for residents of Lexington Houses – $430,000

• Improvements to Robbins Plaza: security system, automatic entrance, new fridges and stoves for residents – $370,000

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