By Carol Tannenhauser
A new recreation and fitness area intended for tweens and younger adults opened in Riverside Park at 76th Street this week, and it’s just what the neighborhood ordered — literally.
Happy to report that the new courts at 76th St. open today! With 5 new fitness features, 8 benches, bike racks, a 1/2 court, a drinking fountain & a new tree, we celebrate this @nycparks project. Many thanks to @nyccouncil Member @HelenRosenthal for funding these improvements! pic.twitter.com/qywfn8j3jl
— Riverside Park Conservancy (@RiversideParkNY) October 9, 2019
Council Member Rosenthal and the Parks Department deserve props, but let’s give credit where it’s also due: to the Upper West Side community at large, which conceived of the project and voted to fund it in 2016, through a program that is the government equivalent of a game show, called “Participatory Budgeting.”
Here’s how it works:
Every year, each of the 51 New York City Council Members is budgeted $1 million to be spent in their districts at the discretion of their constituents. Council members solicit and accept all suggestions for potential projects from the public, stipulating that they must (1) be physical improvements or equipment (not staff or programming); (2) be located on city property; and (3) cost at least $50,000.
“Each idea is carefully vetted, and then every viable project is fleshed out by our staff, volunteers and community delegates,” Rosenthal’s Communications Director Sarah Crean explained. “If a project meets all criteria, can be carried out with the requested funds, and the relevant city agency has indicated it is doable, it gets put on the ballot.”
The number of projects on the ballet varies from year to year, as does the number of winners.
“The project with the most votes wins, and then the next, and then the next, until we hit the $1 million mark,” Crean said. “If we have gone lightly over the $1 million mark, sometimes CM Rosenthal rounds out the next project with her discretionary dollars to help get it done.”
The 2019-2020 Participatory Budgeting process is now in the suggestion stage.
“Anybody who wants to get involved in the process can reach out to us now, propose their ideas, and work with fellow residents to flesh out all the proposals in November and December,” Crean said. Here is the link. The Participatory Budgeting link for Upper West Siders living in Mark Levine’s district is here. And you can watch a video about Participatory Budgeting here.
Suggestions about how to spend $1 million to improve the neighborhood are due November 1st.