The residents of Northeast Queens have been diligently working with Councilmember Paul Vallones office to decide how $1 million of discretionary funds will be spent within the community. Participatory budgeting, which can now be found in 24 of 51 City Council districts is a great opportunity for all residents as young as 16, especially those new to civic life, to suggest and vote on how a portion of the citys budget is allocated. Anybody who is interested can suggest capital projects that cost between $35,000 and $1 million, such as school and park upgrades, library enhancements and beautification projects. Voting is held over the course of a week in April 2015. The first step in the participatory budgeting process is to host brainstorming sessions at neighborhood assemblies. At these assemblies, ideas are proposed and then budget delegates are designated to champion the ideas to ensure they are fully developed and do outreach so the community is aware of what they will be voting on.
The first three neighborhood assemblies hosted by Vallones office have been tremendously successful as hundreds of residents have participated. Nearly every civic organization in Vallones district has been given a presentation on participatory budgeting by the councilmembers staff and the three past assemblies were strategically placed in areas throughout the district that are easily accessible by public transportation.
Some of the project ideas suggested so far include beautification by placing planters, lamp posts, trash bins and old-fashioned clocks, creating adult exercise stations at major local parks, bike path resurfacing along Joe Michaels Mile, building special needs playground equipment, funding security cameras for the NYPD, curb reconstruction for flood-prone areas and technological improvements for many schools that require them. Budget delegates will review community needs and ideas from across the district, develop project proposals with help from city experts and decide which projects are placed on the ballot for voting in April. Most projects usually range from $50,000 to $350,000. Im thrilled that we have been able to get so many great project ideas already and have been successful in involving as many people as we can, said Vallone. I cant understate the importance of being able to involve the community in this budget process.