For the second year running, the Borough Park community has the chance to vote on how to improve the neighborhood. Participatory budgeting is back and this year a number of proposals to improve lives in Borough Park are in the running.
Under participatory budgeting, the community has a direct say on how over $1 million in city funds will be invested in the community. This money comes from the discretionary budgets of City Council members who have decided to open the process to everyone and let residents decide how to spend this money. This year Council Members David Greenfield and Brad Lander are both taking part in this process.
The process started last fall, when residents from around the community came together to think of ways the communities can be improved. Many neighbors from Borough Park have been involved since October when major meetings were held in the neighborhood for anyone from the area. Over the past six months, they have worked hard to make sure that proposals to benefit Borough Park are on the ballot and that they can be implemented by the New York City agencies.
Council Member Lander explained, “Participatory budgeting makes sure that every resident is able to have their say in how we improve our community.” He emphasized that participatory budgeting “depends on the entire community coming together to share their ideas” and that the process offers us the chance to “strengthen local democracy” in New York City.
“This is a unique opportunity for residents of Borough Park to get involved in their community and have a direct say in how this money is invested right here in the neighborhood,” said Councilman Greenfield. “It has been great to see so many people involved in this process over the past few months, and I urge everyone to have their voice heard at the ballot box during the upcoming vote. This truly has been a great exercise and experiment in open government and democracy.”
Projects on the final ballot in Councilman Greenfield’s district include pedestrian countdown signals at various busy and dangerous intersections; security cameras at vulnerable locations as determined through consultation with the NYPD; and the resurfacing of several roads around the district that are in poor condition.
Two projects on the ballot in Council Member Lander’s District will have a big impact on life in our community. Students attending Yeshiva Torah Temimah School are put in danger by the dire state of the streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks in the immediate area. The yeshiva is on Ocean Parkway, which was recently named Brooklyn’s most dangerous street. The proposal would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the area safer for students. Signage will be updated and traffic flow altered to ensure that vehicles can pass easily through the area without posing a threat to pedestrians.
Also on Council Member Lander’s ballot will be a plan to place four security cameras in each of the NYPD precincts within the 39th District—including the 66th Precinct which covers Kensington and Borough Park. These highly visible cameras are expected to act as a deterrent to crime and will improve the ability of local police officers to protect residents from all manner of threats. Borough Park already enjoys excellent security camera coverage at MTA locations and our neighbors participating in this year’s process have argued that this security should be enjoyed across the district.
One of the winning proposals in 2012 was to plant more trees around the 39th District in order to make our neighborhoods greener, more welcoming places for families and children. Community members have led the way in choosing where the trees can make the biggest impact. A year later, 14th Avenue is about to get a lot greener as the Parks Department plants trees along this major street.
Participating in the budget process can make a major difference even if a proposal does not win enough votes. While the proposal to repave pothole-riddled 50th Street did not win enough votes for funding in the district-wide vote, elected officials from the community were able to use the proposal and the wide local support it received to get the city to undertake this maintenance itself. The street is now in good shape, thanks to the efforts of Borough Park residents and local officials who highlighted the negative impact that poorly maintained thoroughfares have on our community.
Voting takes place on Sunday, April 7, at Bais Yaakov (1371 46th Street), 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Residents of both Council Member Lander and Greenfield’s districts will be able to vote at the same location. Voters need to be 16 or older to participate. Voters should bring proof of age and address. More information about the projects in Borough Park and elsewhere can be found at bradlander.com/PB and PBNYC.org. v