Participatory budgeting begins amid many council transitions

City Council Member Brad Lander
City Council Member Brad Lander (Photo by Tsubasa Berg)

Fiscal Year 2023 is on its way and participatory budgeting (PBNYC)  is underway in 10 districts.

In cycle 11 of PBNYC, community members will have access to an all-new process, and with new council members as a result of the Nov. 2 election. While not every district participates, each of the 10 will submit and vote on projects they want part of the public budget to go toward. Idea submissions have ranged from public transportation projects to environmentally-focused plans. 

Councilmember Brad Lander, who is leaving his post to become the city’s new comptroller, is kicking off the process for the 12th year in district 39 (Park Slope). “In this time of so much change and anxiety, coming together to make shared decisions around what we value in our communities and how we can invest in them for the long term is critically important. I look forward to hearing all the ideas that come out of this process to improve our schools, parks and neighborhoods,” Lander said in a press release Dec. 2.

Lander and Councilmember Steve Levin worked to create a new digital platform where residents can view each other’s proposals. 

Each capital project must cost at least $500,000 and have a lifespan of at least five years. Residents of each district can vote and then the corresponding council member will take the projects with the most votes and include them in the following fiscal year’s budget process. 

Several council members-elect expressed their excitement for the process to begin.

“As an incoming Council Member, breaking down barriers to participation in government is one of my top priorities, and the participatory budgeting process helps us do just that by empowering residents and ensuring that their needs are at the center of how we invest in our communities,” said Jennifer Gutierrez, recently elected to district 34. She is replacing Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who is leaving that seat, which covers parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood, to become the Brooklyn borough president. 

Though no submissions have been made for that district yet, Lander will be working with Council member-elect Shahana Hanif to start the process while she transitions from being on his staff to being in his seat.

“Now more than ever as we recover from a global pandemic and seek ways to reinvest in our communities to address and end systemic racism in our City, we must center budget justice which I believe comes from direct engagement and co-governance with youth, our undocumented and immigrant neighbors, and neighbors impacted by the lack of parks, litter baskets, arts programming, and more,” Hanif said. 

One user named Boucher submitted a proposal for a bike lane across 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, and other community members have endorsed and started an informed discussion in the comments. User Janice wrote in favor of the proposal, saying “I do not cycle because it is too dangerous. I fully support this to make a safer space for people to cycle and because it would also calm the traffic in the area.”

Others offered that it was a terrible idea, and another said that the city needs to properly enforce bike lanes. Residents of the 10 participating districts can submit their ideas and vote here until April 22, 2022.