33rd District Participatory Budgeting Recap

by Ryan Watson on

Last Thursday night, about 40 North Brooklyn residents gathered at the Polish & Slavic Center basement to learn more about the Participatory Budgeting (PB) process and to propose ideas for the $1 million available for capital funding projects in the 33rd District. Sponsored by New York City Council Member Steve Levin, the process is aimed at giving citizens direct decision making ability in budget priorities.

What is Participatory Budgeting?
Beginning in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic budgeting process that allows community members to decide how to spend a portion of a city’s budget. The process allows New Yorkers to propose ideas on how to spend $1 million of capital discretionary funds within their district. Capital funds (as opposed to expense funds, which go toward non-physical budget items such as salaries) is money in the city budget set aside for infrastructure projects and other improvements, or to purchase physical property. To be eligible for capital funds in the PB process, proposed projects must meet the following requirements:

  1. Cost at least $35,000
  2. Have a “useful life” of five years or more
  3. Involve the construction, reconstruction, acquisition or installation of a physical public improvement

For a breakdown on how New York City’s budget works and what projects are eligible for funding click here.

What Happened at the Meeting?
CM Steve Levin gave a preliminary introduction on the city budget and the PB process. Staff members explained the difference between capital and expense funds. Attendees broke up into three groups to brainstorm a list of capital projects. Each group then voted on their top three capital fund project proposals. Each resident received three votes to distribute amongst the suggested proposals.

© 2012 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. Proposed ideas.

© 2012 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. City Council person Steve Levin.

© 2012 Ryan Watson. Used with permission. GWAPP Board Member Rich Mazur.

What Projects Were Proposed?
Amongst the three groups, residents proposed more than three dozen ideas ranging from traffic calming measures on McGuinness Boulevard to more bike racks to maintenance equipment in North Brooklyn parks. The top project ideas that emerged from the three groups included:

  • New bathrooms and computers for PS 34
  • Purchasing equipment for local soup kitchen
  • Building an urban farm/greenhouse in McCarren Park
  • Funding for Monitor Museum

What if I Missed the Meeting?
If you were unable to attend the PB meeting, you can still propose ideas for capital funds ideas or volunteer to become a budget delegate by emailing district33pb@gmail.com. Budget delegates will work over the next few months to help develop ideas into full proposals and develop relationships to relevant city agencies. In February 2013, project proposals will be shared with the community to garner feedback and final community voting on project proposals will take place in March or April.

Check Out More
Greenpoint Gazette: Levin to Open Budget Process to the Public



Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson

Originally from Los Angeles, Ryan is a relatively new but very proud resident of Greenpoint. He was drawn to Greenpoint by the strong sense of community and history of local activism. Ryan can be found at North Brooklyn Farms, the urban farm at the Domino Sugar Factory, which he co-founded or working in the 61 Franklin Street Community Garden.
  • Visions of McCarren Park Urban Farm « Sky Color Sustenance commented:

    […] Last Thursday, my friend Ryan and I (and a group of other North Brooklyn residents) attended the participatory budgeting meeting for the 33rd District. It was a chance for community members to voice concerns about problems in the neighborhood, present ideas about how to fix those problems, and start the process of deciding how to use $1 million set aside by City Councilmember Steve Levin for the purpose of this novel experiment in local democratic decision making. For a great recap of the meeting and a description of how the process will unfold going forward, read Ryan’s blog post on the website of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. […]