What would you do with up to $1 million to spend on your neighborhood was the question posed at an October 5th Flatlands Participatory Budgeting (PB) Neighborhood Assembly held by Councilwoman Farah Louis for Council District 45 at The Bridge located on Flatbush Avenue.
“Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process by which community members directly decide how to spend part of their Council Member’s discretionary funds to propose ideas to meet local needs in their districts such as improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing and other public spaces,” explained Louis of the process that allows capital funds spending of up to $1 million for proposed projects in her district.
There was a fairly good representation of residents from Flatlands and other neighborhoods too, considering that the meeting was quickly rescheduled to the following day because it was originally held on Yom Kippur. It’s a rare opportunity for community to have direct input on changes they would like to see happen in their neighborhood.
The assembly was necessary to explain the specific requirements needed to submit an eligible proposal during the brainstorming session that quickly followed to ensure that residents understood the criteria, eligibility requirements and process during a slideshow presentation by Louis to increase the chances of getting ideas accepted and voted upon.
Among them were that the proposed project begins at a minimum cost of $50,000 to a maximum of $1 million, the money can only be spent on “brick and mortar” types of projects that cover long-term investments in facilities and infrastructure of a minimum of five years on city-owned public property.
It was important for the group to understand that the money could not be used for expenses on things like home or private business, charter schools, renting a community space, running a basketball league or any service that is already provided by the City.
Louis said that PB is now in its 12th cycle and that there is a total of $30 million budgeted for 30 participating Council Districts. Neighborhoods vie to get their projects selected in a healthy competition.
Louis gave examples of previously funded projects and said this was the first part of a four-part process that is repeated in four locations within her district, consisting of East Flatbush, Flatlands, Canarsie and Flatbush.
The first phase was for brainstorming ideas and recruiting Budget Delegates among community members and is taking place up to October 17th. This will be followed by determining eligibility, proposal development and selection, promotion and voting, process evaluation and implementation of the selected project once it is passed in the City budget at the end of June.
Community Outreach Liaison Daniel Heredia led the brainstorming session in which participants were asked to submit at least five ideas each.
“I think everybody in the district should get a $100 bill,” The Bridge Multicultural & Advocacy Project Executive Director Mark Meyer Appel jokingly said, which got everyone off to a good start.
Some ideas like a community pool, public fountain or recreation center were not eligible because they would cost more than $1 million but resulting ideas like building a stage in a public plaza, upgraded street lighting on dark avenues, more public cameras for public safety, installing stationary fitness equipment in public parks and creating a space for a bazaar were considered eligible.
For information about upcoming neighborhood assemblies, contact the Office of Councilwoman Farah Louis at 718-629-2900 or email District45@council.nyc.gov. Learn more and submit ideas online at ideas.pbnyc.org/page/guidelines.