BY LYNN EDMONDS
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) announced the top five winners of the participatory budgeting process in District 19 on Monday.
The top five winners, all of which will receive funding, were Bayside High School, JHS 194, PS 193, PS 79 and the Dwarf Giraffe athletic league, which proposed to build a pedestrian safety sidewalk and guardrail near Harvey Park in Whitestone.
Principal of Bayside High School Michael Athy said thanked Vallone “for bringing the community together around something so positive.”
The school won $450,000 to pay for a state-of the-art music studio, which will meet the needs of 350 students in the “career and technical education” music production and performance program, as well as the greater student body and community. The project received 1,114 votes.
In addition to providing funding, Athy said that PB benefited the school because “Our kids learned a lot about the budgeting process.”
In its second year, participatory budgeting in District 19 got more votes than anywhere else in Queens. The program was so successful that Vallone decided to draw on capital funds in order to increase the amount of funding from $1 million to $2.25 million, so that he could fun each of the top five projects. In total, 4,500 district residents cast a vote, and the delegates who were involved attended about a dozen meetings.
Vallone said he thought the process was important for civic participation and an especially good way to get youth involved, since anyone age 16 and up is allowed to vote.
“At a time when voter turnout is at a record low, we have created a way to engage our youth and youngster voters as to the power and importance of voting,” Vallone said.
He also praised the process for allowing him to hear the “pulse of the community,” and their wishes.
The second through fifth place winners were as follows:
JHS 194 received 1,085 vote and $550,000 to upgrade their auditorium, PS 193 received 1,059 votes and $500,000 to upgrade their auditorium, PS 79 received 1,025 votes and $200,000 to upgrade their gymnasium and the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League secured 987 votes and $550,000 to create a sidewalk and guardrail along a stretch of the Whitestone Expressway service road near Harvey Park.
Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Glen Oaks) announced that a total of $1.5 million would go out to three projects in District 23. Over 1,000 voters came out to vote for participatory budgeting projects in that district.
In first place was a project to see $548,000 worth of laptop carts and smart boards installed at PS 33, PS 178, PS 205, PS 224 at PS 205, IS 109, PS/IS 266, the Queens High school of Teaching, Business Technology Early College High School.
In second place was $375,000 for new AV and auxiliary systems at PS 18, PS 26, PS 33, PS 186 and IS 109.
In third place, Hollis and Queens Village libraries will receive $550,000 for facility upgrades, technology installations and new library materials.
The two projects that did not get chosen were updates for the gym at Martin Van Buren High School and a resurfacing of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.
“Participatory budgeting is great way to engage and include the community in our budget process and it strengthens our democracy. PB encourages collaboration and lets members of our community decide where and how to best spend our money. I am incredibly grateful for the hard work that volunteers put into making this year’s participatory budgeting a success,” said Grodenchik.
The two other Northeast Queens council members, councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) do not do participatory budgeting in their districts.
“Participatory budgeting takes an extraordinary amount of office time and resources for no discernible improvement in outcomes over working through the existing vast civic infrastructure for public participation,” Lancman told the Gotham Gazette in October 2015.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana