While participatory budgeting has gained popularity in much of the City, there are some council members who currently do not participate in the initiative.
In Queens, there are five council members who do not have participatory budgeting in their districts, Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Ruben Wills (D-Rochdale Village).
Crowley’s district includes Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and portions of Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside.
Sources said Crowley has not yet done PB because she does not want to let residents who do not support her decide where money for projects would be allocated.
“She only wants to be [representative] for her people,” one source, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
Bob Holden, who is the president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said there would be a lot of interest if Crowley brought PB to her district, but she does not want to allocate discretionary funds to every group in her district and accused her of playing favorites to her political supporters.
He said there are several areas in the district that could use that money, including renovating the baseball field and hockey rink at Juniper Valley Park.
“We need Participatory Budgeting because she’s not fair, she doesn’t disperse her money fairly,” he said. “This speaks volumes about who she is as a council member.”
Colberg said the WRBA has spoken to Crowley’s office in the past about PB, and while they are happy to offer their opinion to her office about the initiative, it is ultimately her choice to participate or not.
“If an option is given to one part of Woodhaven, it should be given to the other,” Colberg said.
Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board 5, which covers much of Crowley’s District, said Crowley could decide not to be in PB because she may already know which projects she wants to fund.
He added that she has funded projects in the past like the Glendale Library, the running track at Juniper Valley Park and the renovation of Evergreen Park. Giordano said it is a positive to bring a process like PB to any community.
“Most of the time, to air it out, it is healthy,” Giordano said.
A spokesperson for Crowley’s office said they are discussing bringing participatory budgeting to the district next year.
“Until then, I will continue to engage community stake holders including; city agencies, community boards, local principals, and civic leaders to help determine how best to allocate discretionary funding in the 30th Council District,” Crowley said in a statement.
As for the other council members, Lancman said in a statement that he still has concerns about Participatory Budgeting.
“My concern with participatory budgeting is that it potentially exacerbates the lack of funding for underserved and underrepresented communities, and might shortchange long-term capital planning needs in favor of immediate results,” he said through a spokesperson. “Allocating funding for capital projects is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I’m proud that in the current fiscal year, we were successful in allocating almost $1,000,000 to improve community parks, $350,000 for health care facilities, over $250,000 in library improvements, $500,000 to higher education, and nearly $3,000,000 to twenty-two public schools in our council district.”
Koo, through his spokesperson, said he has a responsibility to make sure funding is allocated to every part of his district and their office reviews constituent records to see what needs are not being met.
“I wholeheartedly agree with participatory budgeting in principle, and while not an official participant, my office takes great care to ensure every request for funding gets its fair shake,” Koo said.
Wills’ office declined to comment for this article and Dromm has not returned requests for comment as of press time.
– Luis Gronda