By Bill Parry
Schools in western Queens are the big winners in this year’s participatory budgeting process in City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s District 26, where residents have a say on how more than $1 million should be spent.
Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) joined more than 100 community members at the Woodside Library last week to reveal the winning projects from this year’s exercise, which includes laptops and carts for seven public schools, bathroom repairs and upgrades at several other schools and bus time countdown clocks throughout the district.
More than 5,000 residents voted this year, an increase from 3,600 in 2016, with over 1,000 voting online for the first time.
“After the record-breaking vote count and enthusiasm we saw for this round of participatory budgeting, I’m thrilled to allocate over $1.8 million that will return right back to our district directly to projects our community voted for,” Van Bramer said. “These will be improvements we can actually see and feel all throughout Sunnyside, Long Island City, Woodside, Dutch Kills and Astoria. From countdown clocks at bus stops that provide live updates, to mobile laptops, bathroom repairs, and improvements to our schools that will help our students learn, our community will be made better by these projects.”
The process began in March with neighborhood assemblies throughout Van Bramer’s district.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) announced last week a record 3,617 residents of his district voted on which projects they wanted to receive capital funding. A project to plant new trees finished first, followed by bus countdown clocks at 10 locations, an accessible entrance at the Astoria Library, and technology upgrades at other libraries.
“Seeing our vote total more than double from last year shows that neighborhood residents care about our public and community spaces,” Constantinides said. “We are happy to provide this rewarding opportunity that brings the city budget process directly to our community members and helps keep our neighborhood civically engaged. This volunteer-driven process wouldn’t be possible without the help of everyone who assisted at a voting site or joined a budget delegate group.”
The process began last fall with nearly 700 residents of Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights attending neighborhood assemblies and idea-collection sessions. Over 600 ideas were brainstormed.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr