Participatory Budgeting voting takes place in western Queens

By Bill Parry

Bicycle riders in Long Island City are the big winners in the 26th Council District’s first year of participatory budgeting.

Delegates, stakeholders and residents of LIC, Sunnyside and Woodside voted overwhelmingly for the $500,000 Long Island City Bikeway project, which will improve the streetscape on Vernon Boulevard from 41st Avenue at the Queensbridge Houses South through Queens Plaza South.

The project will improve lighting, resurface the rough spots and add pedestrian countdown clocks at Queens Plaza South.

“We’re thrilled that the LIC Bikeway is the winning project,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely-White said. “With a big uptick in cycling coming when Citi Bike arrives in western Queens, there is a need to get to work now on street design improvements to keep people on bikes safer.”

The second-largest number of votes went to a van for seniors at the Jacob Riis Settlement House, costing $55,000. Upgrades for five playgrounds in the Queensbridge Houses, costing $500,000, finished third. The total of the three projects exceeds the $1 million limit that was available, but Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside) said he would find the extra funding to ensure all three projects are funded.

“Hundreds of local residents helped make the 26th District’s first-ever Participatory Budgeting process a tremendous success,” Van Bramer said. “The beauty of the process is that it brings together communities from around the district and makes us one. Because I believe in the process and voter turnout was high, I am proud to announce that I will be dedicating over $1.5 million toward our communities’ favorite projects. This funding will not only cover the cost for the three most popular projects but will also incorporate investments into five more projects that received great support.”

These projects include better accessibility at the Sunnyside and Woodside libraries, districtwide Real Time passenger-bus countdown clocks, Woodside Reforestry and technology updates at PS 78 in Long Island City.

Tech upgrades for the schools in Council District 22 were the big winners of the participatory budgeting process in Astoria and parts of Long Island City and Jackson Heights. City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) announced that each school in the district would receive $35,000 for new equipment after hundreds took part in the voting. A $500,000 Dog Run in Astoria and another $500,000 for the IS 126 Playground were the other winning projects.

“The entire process has been community-driven, inclusive, and engaging,” Constantinides said. “I am excited to see the strong voter response that gave everyone a voice in the city budgeting process.”

Funding all three projects would exceed the $1 million allocation. Constantinides plans to dip into his discretionary budget for the extra $245,000 to fully support all three projects.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.