Participatory Budgeting wraps up in western Queens

By Bill Parry

More than 3,600 residents in the district represented by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) voted on how to spend $1.85 million in funding to improve their neighborhoods as the second season of Participatory Budgeting came to a close Monday.

The most popular project was the special needs playground for P4 at Skillman, which drew 1,437 votes.

The playground at 24-30 Skillman Ave. will receive a $250,000 upgrade, with customized equipment including slides, monkey bars, game boards and ramps. The playground at PS 112 will be resurfaced and its equipment upgraded after 1,169 voters decided to invest $500,000 in the second most popular project.

Basketball courts at the Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses will get $350,000 apiece, while $300,000 will go to a Dutch Kills pedestrian safety project and a final $100,000 will be allocated for bathroom repairs at PS 111.

The process began in the fall, when community members from Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Dutch Kills and Astoria gathered at neighborhood assemblies to brainstorm on capital improvement projects. Then 50 volunteer budget delegates winnowed down the list of hundreds of ideas into a number of real, implementable projects that made it onto the ballot.

“Residents came together and said loud and clear how they wanted to spend our city’s money, and every project they chose is a fantastic investment in our community,” Van Bramer said. “Because so many people made their voices heard, I’ve decided to allocate an additional $800,000 over the $1 million promised so that residents can see these community improvements come to fruition. From school playgrounds and new basketball courts to bathroom upgrades and pedestrian safety, I’m sure these projects will make our community a better and more vibrant place to live.”

Participatory Budgeting wrapped up in Councilman Costa Constantinides’ district Monday as well, with Astoria Park coming out the big winner. Residents voted for a $500,000 water fountain project, while picnic and gaming tables will be installed as part of the second favorite project. Real Time Bus Countdown finished third so 24 clocks valued at $20,000 each will be installed on the M60, Q18, Q19, Q33, Q47, Q69, Q101, Q102, Q103 and Q104 bus lines.

“The district has spoken, and we can see that residents value our parks and green spaces, as well as public transportation,” the Astoria Democrat said. “Astoria Park is the jewel of our community, and it will become an even better space for families throughout the neighborhood with these additional amenities.

“Seeing all the efforts from our budget delegates and volunteers shows that Participatory Budgeting is democracy in action.”

Residents from Astoria and parts of Woodside, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst took part. As with the winning projects from the previous cycle, city agencies will seek further community input, put together designs, and go through planning stages before construction begins.

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

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