By Bill Parry
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) is gearing up for a third season of participatory budgeting in which residents of his district, including Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, can decide how to invest $1 million on capital projects. Beginning next month community members can attend four neighborhood assemblies and make suggestions for public projects in the district.
“I am excited to once again give residents the opportunity to take part in our city budget cycle,” Constantinides said. “This year we’ve expanded the participatory budgeting program to those over 14 years old, so that even more residents can take part in this inclusive process. This community-driven program provides an extraordinary opportunity for all our residents to have a voice and to engage with our city budget cycle in a meaningful way.”
The process involves a series of meetings that feed into the city’s annual budget cycle. Proposals are submitted by residents at neighborhood assemblies, the first will be at Cretans Association, located at 32-33 31st St., on Sept. 7. Others assemblies will be held at the Lexington School for the Deaf, at 25-26 75th St., on Sept. 14, the Astoria Houses Community Center, at 4-05 Astoria Blvd. on Sept. 21, and the Bohemian Hall at 29-19 24th Ave. on Sept. 28.
Later, volunteers break up into groups and transform a list of ideas into a ballot of fully formed proposals with details and costs. Next spring, residents will vote for their favorite projects at sites across the district.
Winning projects from last year’s cycle included a $500,000 water fountain project at Astoria Park, as well as new picnic and gaming tables for Astoria Park. Residents also voted for countdown clocks at bus stops that let residents know when the next bus is arriving. A total of 24 clocks valued at $20,000 each will be installed on the M60, Q18, Q19, Q33, Q47, Q69, Q101, Q102, Q103 and Q14 bus lines.
City agencies are currently scoping out these projects sites before the design and construction stages begin.
“The enthusiasm we’ve seen from voters is what has made participatory budgeting a success in previous cycles,” Constantinides said. “I look forward to continuing to provide the opportunity for civic participation in our neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr