Voting is set to commence Sunday on a second year of participatory budgeting proposals for District 33 under the leadership of Councilmember Stephen Levin.
More than 10 proposals have come in from North Brooklyn including requests for technological upgrades for schools, long-awaited repairs to the McGolrick Park Playground and creation of a new mobile educational project.
“Participatory Budgeting is a great way for New Yorkers to get directly involved in deciding how to improve their community and I am looking forward to our second annual vote,” said Levin. “I am excited about the projects proposed throughout the district and am excited to see which ones receive the most votes.”
This year, several district schools have proposed technological upgrades such as the purchase of SMART boards – interactive white boards that allow teachers to pull up information for students from the internet, and allow students to interact with the interface as a form of class discussion and participation.
P.S. 16 Leonard Dunkly on Wilson Street requested $70,000 for the installation of 10 SMART boards in 10 classrooms.
“We’re trying to bring education to the 21st century,” said Mary Renny, the principal of the school. “Kids can’t necessarily sit through traditional methods of instruction these days because everything has become so fast paced. This technology makes things come alive for the students.”
Another neighborhood proposal calls for renovations to the McGolrick Park Playground, which has fallen into severe disrepair over the last few years.
This one is spearheaded by the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, a group that formed late last year to champion repairs, reconstruction and maintenance of the neighborhood park. The Playground repairs proposal is budgeted at $450,000.
Members of the organization applied for the GCEF funding process but were unable to make the deadline for the first round, and are now pursuing alternative routes of funding.
“We’re trying very hard to get out the vote,” said Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy, one of the members of the Alliance, which if given the funding will work with the Parks Department to initiate repairs on the Playground. “Everybody I’ve spoken to always shows great interest in the project. But I’m worried people don’t know enough about the participatory budget process and how that will affect the vote.”
One of this year’s most unique proposals is the BOOKlyn SHUTTLE, a mobile library of sorts, which is being proposed by the St. Nick’s Alliance for a total of $198,000.
St. Nicks worked with students and professors at the Pratt Institute designing a bus that will travel to different spots in the neighborhood, giving neighborhood kids and residents the chance to borrow and exchange books from the BOOKlyn SHUTTLE’s catalogue.
“It is an education center that is looking to inspire kids and improve literacy in the neighborhood,” said Lai-Wan Wong, the director of the youth and education program at St. Nick’s and the lead coordinator on the project. “It’s about making these activities fun and working with local organizations to integrate them into a regular family schedule.”
The BOOKlyn SHUTTLE is similar to the Sketchbook Project, a traveling library of artists’ sketchbooks with a permanent library based in Williamsburg, but for a younger audience. St. Nick’s has already managed to raise $30,000 through fundraising, which Wong said was testament to the fact community members were excited about the project.
If the group is able to secure the funds, the BOOKlyn SHUTTLE could be up and running as early as the beginning of 2015.
Four members of the City Council introduced the participatory budgeting process, which was first instituted in the Brazilian town of Porto Alegre in 1989, in New York in 2011. The budgeting process allows provides residents a democratic means to directly vote on community projects that are paid for as part of the public budget.
This year 10 City Council districts will vote on proposals received from its neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has about $1 million to allocate to the project that receives the highest number of votes or divide it up among a ground of projects.
In District 33 last year, Levin’s office funded the top five projects that received the most number of votes.
Voting is scheduled to take place March 30 to April 6 in various locations throughout North Brooklyn.