PBNYC expands to 8 Districts and $10 million

Participatory Budgeting in New York City is expanding! Starting this Fall, 1.3 million New Yorkers in 8 Council Districts will be able to decide how to spend at least $10 million. PBP (The Participatory Budgeting Project) is again serving as the lead technical assistance partner for the initiative, working with the Council Members, dozens of other organizations, and community leaders to make the process run as smoothly as possible. See below for the official press release.
For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012
Contact: Josh Lerner, Executive Director, PBP – 347-554-7357
‘Revolutionary’ Participatory Budgeting Process Doubles in Size in 2nd Year

Participatory budgeting, called “revolutionary civics in action” by the New York Times, will double in size as it enters its second year with even more Council Members, community organizations and everyday New Yorkers taking leadership roles.
Council Members David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), Daniel Halloran (R-Queens), Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), and Mark Weprin (D-Queens) announced today that they will be bringing the groundbreaking participatory budgeting process to their districts, joining four Council Members who started participatory budgeting last year: Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) and Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn).
With four additional Council Members participating, 1.3 million New Yorkers will now be able to directly decide how to spend some of their tax dollars, on projects in their neighborhoods.
Participatory budgeting lets New Yorkers directly decide how to spend millions of capital budgeting funds provided by their Council Member. New York City has the largest participatory budgeting program in America.
Through the first cycle of participatory budgeting, over 2,000 residents came together in 27 public meetings during the fall and winter to discuss local priorities and design specific infrastructure projects, which more than 6,000 New Yorkers ultimately voted on in March 2012.
A selection of projects that received funding through the participatory budgeting process last year included:
– $150,000 for the E-Tech Campus for CAMBA Beacon Program at P.S. 269
– $80,000 for new books and equipment for the Kensington, Brooklyn public library to enhance the branch’s use for meetings, storytelling, rehearsals, and small performances promoting Kensington’s cultural diversity
– $100,000 for transportation for seniors and a Meals-on-Wheels delivery van in East Harlem
– $147,000 for a water pump, pagers, and an oxygen refill system for volunteer fire departments in the Far Rockaways.
Last year’s effort was covered in everything from local community papers to WNYC to New York Times to PBS and more. This addition of four new City Council districts represents a major expansion of participatory democracy in New York and the United States.
“Residents know what types of projects are most needed in their neighborhood, and participatory budgeting gives them a real voice in determining how their tax dollars are spent. I am proud to take part in an effort that brings the power directly to the taxpayers and brings greater transparency to the budgeting process,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield.
“Participatory budgeting results in fairer spending and gets the public more involved with their government,” said Council Member Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). “When the citizens are involved, our city will be fairer and will reflect the values and ethics of New Yorkers.”
“After seeing the success of participatory budgeting in neighboring districts, I’m proud to join my colleagues in utilizing the participatory budgeting process this year,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Participatory budgeting will increase civic engagement, foster dialogue and cooperation amongst the diverse communities I represent, and allow Brooklynites to make real decisions about how to spend their own tax dollars.”
“I am pleased to be sponsoring participatory budgeting, an exciting way for people to be personally involved in how their tax dollars are spent,” said Council Member Mark Weprin.
“This year, for the first time, the city budget contains neighborhood projects that were selected by the voters,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “Thanks to four more City Councilmembers who are willing to try something new, over one million New Yorkers will be deciding how to spend city funds on projects in their communities.”
“Participatory Budgeting is truly democracy in action,” said Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito. “It is a very powerful process that engages people who otherwise wouldn’t be engaged. PB is about educating and empowering citizens by including them in solutions and problem-solving at the most grassroots level.”
“Through participatory budgeting, my constituents were able to make real decisions about how their tax dollars were being spent, and I look forward to improving upon the process during the second year,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich.
“I am excited to begin the second year of participatory budgeting here in the 45th District,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “This process was truly a transformational one for my office and our community alike, as we learned a new way to best serve the voice and the needs of the people. More residents than ever are engaged with their government and the spending of their tax dollars, and with more knowledge comes more power to achieve our shared goal, creating a safe place for young people to learn and grow.”
“The first year was a good kick off year and now that we 4 more Districts that joined us,” said Ann Bragg, District 8 Budget Delegate and Community Voices Heard leader. “This is exciting because we are building a city-wide democratic process that is a new concept on the meaning of your vote.”
“Already, the success of participatory budgeting in New York City is inspiring similar processes elsewhere, in cites such as Chicago and Vallejo, California. PBNYC has become an international model for real grassroots democracy,” said Josh Lerner, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization The Participatory Budgeting Project, the lead technical assistance partner for PBNYC.
“The participatory budgeting process generated a lot of interest and successfully engaged thousands of New Yorkers in deciding how to allocate their own tax dollars,” said David Nocenti, Executive Director of Union Settlement Association in East Harlem. “I want to congratulate the four members of the City Council who launched this initiative, and the additional Council members who will be expanding the program to their districts this year. I look forward to seeing how this experiment in ‘from the ground up’ decision-making is transformed in the years to come.”
“Open space is one of the areas in which participatory budgeting can make the greatest impact, because the Parks Department doesn’t have its own capital budget and is dependent on City Council allocations for improvements,” said Holly Leicht, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “The parks projects that rose to the top in last year’s public process – from playground enhancements in the South Bronx, Upper Manhattan and the Rockaways to new pedestrian paths and trash cans in Prospect Park – were selected by New Yorkers who use those spaces most and are best positioned to determine what’s needed to make them better. New Yorkers for Parks looks forward to seeing communities empowered to invest in their parks and open spaces for another year, and hopefully many more to come.”
“PB was revolutionary in its ability to engage and empower voices that are often marginalized,” said Mel Wymore, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 7. “We saw a new generation of civic leaders emerge from the first year alone. I applaud the pioneering Council Members who brought PB to New York City, and look forward to continuing to expand this important enhancement to the democratic process. Bravo!”
“Participatory budgeting is a potent tool for empowering local residents,” said Youjin B. Kim, Policy Analyst at Demos, a national public policy organization. “The people decide how best to improve their communities, and allocate the resources to make it happen. We look forward to seeing rising levels of civic engagement as it expands in years to come.”
“PB’s true impact lies beyond the projects funded, though those are quite important,” said Celina Su, Associate Professor of Political Science, City University of New York and a PBNYC Steering Committee member. PB’s greatest successes lie in a reweaving of our social fabric, a renewed belief that government can work for us and not just elites, and a rewriting of the social contract between government and citizen, and among neighbors.”