Episode 14

A Million Dollar Question


In today’s episode, Dan and Mary discuss Bay Ridge’s first Participatory Budgeting cycle. During last year’s city council race, every single candidate vowed to bring the experimental budgeting process into our district. This year, it’s finally happening! Our district will be getting a million dollars that will be spent entirely through grassroots democratic outreach, organized by and for local residents.

Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and parts of Bensonhurst will get a million dollars spend on ideas it’s own residents come up with. The money can be used for construction and built things only (capital projects), but beyond that, it’s a very flexible system. Our co-host Dan is actually on the fifteen-person committee of local residents that will be helping to nurture and shepherd these ideas to buildable, votable ballot items. Listen in as we discuss what Participatory Budgeting means for Bay Ridge and how to get involved.


Show Notes

Learn More About Participatory Budgeting

You can check out the history and goals of participatory budgeting on a national level by visiting ParticipatoryBudgeting.org. For detail on how it affects us, check out New York City’s participatory budgeting page at council.nyc.gov/pb.

Be sure to also submit an idea, and check out existing ideas, through the online idea portal. Remember, October 5th is your last day to submit!

What Exactly is a Capital Project?

A capital project is, broadly speaking, something that is “brick and mortar”. In other words, it has to be a physical thing you can build. It can’t involve recurring yearly staff costs, it can’t involve purchasing and supplying new equipment or goods over time, etc. For example:

  • Repairing a Sidewalk – Good!
  • Building a new school tech center – Good!
  • Getting the trash cans in the park picked up more often – Nope.
  • A youth program for kids afterschool – Nope.

There are some other requirements too. The idea should cost more than $25,000 dollars, but under $1 million dollars. That also means no partial-funding spread across multiple years, since you cant guarantee the project would win two years in a row.

  • Trim back some trees to make a stop sign easier to see – Too cheap.
  • Put up a security webcam in the senior center parking lot – Too cheap.
  • Add new street lights along Shore Road Park – Good!
  • Renovate the cafeteria in a senior center – Good!
  • A brand-new ferry dock – Way too expensive.
  • A brand-new four-story community center – Way too expensive.

Finally, the projects should benefit the community! Sure, it’d be kinda funny to submit an idea to add a rec room to your basement… but you’d also need to be OK selling your basement rec room to the city or a certified nonprofit organization. Think of things that’d help your neighborhood!

When Are the Community Assemblies?

Soon! Each assembly will provide an overview of the process, give examples of what kinds of things we can spend the money on, and provide our neighbors a chance to submit ideas in person to committee members in addition to the online map.

• Bay Ridge: Monday, October 1st, 7pm at PS 264 (371 89th Street)

Dyker Heights: Tuesday, October 2nd, 7pm at the Knights of Columbus (1305 86th Street)

Bath Beach: Wednesday, October 3rd, 7pm at the MAS Youth Center (1933 Bath Avenue )

What Are We Already Spending Money On?

We mention at the top of the show that Participatory Budgeting comes out of each council member’s discretionary budget. We went over some of the budget items Councilperson Brannan has already allocated for the neighborhood. You can check some of them out here

Existing Capital Funding

The following capital projects were funded by Councilperson Brannan this year, located within or near the district. Items marked by an * are amounts where multiple councilpersons contributed to the fund. These are capital projects, which can give you an idea for what sorts of projects can be sponsored with the Participatory Budgeting funds, and how much some things cost. You can see the full list on the city council website.

Bath Beach Park$1,300,000Reconstruction of paths, overlook sitting area, flagpole paint, drainage, benches, seating, lighting, and landscaping.
Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc (6309 4th Ave.)$1,000,000*Construction of affordable senior housing.
IS 259$500,000Auditorium reconstruction
Maimonides Medical Center$102,000Upgrading operating room tables
NYC Parks Dept$102,000Funding for a new parks department packer (garbage truck)
PS 30$58,000Technology purchases
PS/IS 229$75,000Technology purchases
PS/IS 30$75,000Technology purchases
PS 102$500,000Auditorium reconstruction
PS 170$500,000Auditorium reconstruction
PS 204$486,000Playground reconstruction
Shore Road Park$1,000,000Repair sinkholes along Shore Parkway bike path, and top course for southern half of the promenade.

Nonprofit and Civic Organization Funding

A large array of items are aimed at nonprofits, civic organizations, and other groups aimed at community improvement. These items are also generally not capital projects, and are for funding services and programs. This is called Expense Funding. You can check out a list of what’s being funded this year on the city council website.

Credits
This episode was recorded in our Bay Ridge studio with co-hosts Mary Hetteix and Daniel Hetteix. Post-production and editing are by Daniel Hetteix. Banner image © aa_amie / stock.adobe.com and edited by Daniel Hetteix.

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