By Lisa Kava
On Tuesday, April 26th, four community projects were selected by Upper West Siders to receive capital funds from Council Member Gale Brewer’s discretionary funding budget. Residents of Council District 6 voted, choosing from nine finalists. Over 1,700 ballots were cast in this process, called, “Participatory Budgeting.”
Earlier this year, over 70 project ideas were submitted by residents of District 6, according to a spokesperson from CM Brewer’s office. A volunteer committee studied these proposals, discussing potential costs and feasibility with city agencies.
Voting took place in person or online. The four projects with the most votes will be added to the City Council’s 2022-23 budget proposal. If the proposal passes, it will take effect in July, 2022.
Here are the four winners:
Security Cameras on Broadway, Amsterdam, Columbus, and Riverside Drive
This project received 672 votes to install eight security cameras on the streets listed above, to help deter crime and promote public safety. Specific locations will be determined in consultation with the NYPD. $320,000 will be allotted.
Jessie Isadore Straus School Infrastructure Improvements
P.S. 199, a K-5 elementary school at 270 West 70th Street, received 617 votes to upgrade and repair two existing student restrooms. The repair will include replacing fixtures, stalls, floor/wall tiling, and installing ADA accessibility. $300,000 will be allotted.
Greening Broadway; Trees and Tree Guards on Broadway above 72nd Street
A project to install approximately 35 trees and tree guards on the sidewalks along Broadway received 592 votes. The idea is for the trees to make Broadway a more attractive destination and offer additional shade. $250,000 will be allotted.
Center School Technology Grant
M.S. 243, a middle school serving grades 5-8 at 100 West 84th Street, received 578 votes to improve technology at the school. This project includes the purchase of 12 Promethean Boards, 30 laptops, and one laptop cart so that each classroom has a smart board and laptops connected to the smart boards. $117,000 will be allotted.
Participatory Budgeting was founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 to allow community members to help decide how public budgets were spent. Participatory Budgeting in NYC was founded in 2011 by four NYC Council Members, with the goal of enabling community residents here to have a voice in how the Council Members’ capital discretionary funds are spent.
“Participatory budgeting is an exciting opportunity for residents to get even more involved with local government,” CM Brewer said. “Upper West Siders are very civically engaged, and I am grateful for the support of volunteers who made this effort possible. I look forward to seeing these projects implemented and beautifying our streets and improving education and public safety.”
The rich get richer. It is sad that the less wealthy schools in the area who truly need funding can’t get their acts together to submit a proposal and/or vote for it. All I hear is people complaining about equity. Here is an easy way for them to get free money and help themselves and nothing is done.
I’m also not a big fan of the tree project. I like trees as much as the next guy but I think there were bigger needs.
I agree. PS 199 organized its parent body and got the money but they are extremely well funded. It’s ridiculous
I agree too. As a former parent of PS 199 I could tell that the school is funded very well thanks to an excellent fundraising efforts. I believe same people took the opportunity to get extra funds from this project, but o can’t blame them. They are doing the best for their schools. Apparently other schools in much bigger needs couldn’t bother to lift a finger.
Also agree with Carlos about the trees. Who doesn’t like more trees, but currently there much bigger needs not addressed.
You clearly don’t like trees as much as the next 592 guys (and gals). But thanks for sharing your vote with us.
I think that I shall never see
A participatory budgeting winner less lovely than a tree
Sorry, Riverside Park and Riverside Drive are disintegrating in front of our eyes thanks to years of deferred maintenance. I’m flabbergasted that the very clear needs of the UWS’ crown jewel (sorry Central Park, the tourists have ruined it) are being whistled past.
Yes, it is a shames that Riverside Park has been left to disintegrate for the last 20 years. Who have our representatives been all this time?
Fixing schools and school bathrooms should not be included in these funds. That should be in the education budget. Community funds should not be wasted on renovating an individual school. And a quarter of a million dollars for 35 trees. I can get a better price.
Excellent point. I agree completely. The “participatory budget” is a scam. Had people understood what it actually is – a slush fund for the borough president & those well-heeled enough to navigate the system – it never would have passed.
Never would have passed? Do you even understand the premise? Every elected official had discretionary funds to use in their district. In the past, the councilmember chose what to use those funds to fund. Then, some members of the council decided to open the process to their constituents, rather than deciding unilaterally themselves. So, now we have participatory budgeting. It is to the discression of the council person whether they want to spend their money unilaterally, through participatory budgeting, or some combination thereof.
$250,000 for 35 trees is $7,100 a tree.
Is there a hidden cost somewhere? Otherwise, how do I apply to be a tree planter?!?
Peter, tree itself is the least of the coat. Because of the size of tree planted, the cost for the tree itself will probably only be $500 – $1,000 dollars, depending on species.. But the cost of transporting the tree to the area from the nursery upstate or in NJ, as well as the labor to prepare the planting site (often including the grinding of an old stump, replacing the soil with better quality fill, excavating the hole and then backfilling it after planting, and then there is maintenance for a period of time after, which is watering and making sure it is properly growing. Likely, the guard around the tree pit would actually be more expensive than the tree itself. But not all of that $7k is going to the contractor either. It has to cover City overhead for the Parks Dept ri administer the contract- a forester and a forestry supervisor to oversee the work plus layers of bureaucracy to administer the project.
Does that help?
Thank you for this common-sense — &, dare I say it — obvious answer to the really silly complaint that you should be able to buy a tree & apparently it will just plant & maintain itself. Good grief!
And let me also add that, yes, there are many problems that need attention & “fixing,” wherever possible, but if you’re heard of this thing called “global warming” maybe you can see that planting trees is not just b/c “I think that I shall never see…” Whether you love them, or positively hate them, trees are important.
Would love for the Rag to do some digging into the per tree cost. This is such an incredibly inflated cost, as to be almost unbelievable.
Hey Jake, why don’t YOU do a little research into this. My guess is that you find — wait for it — trees don’t get planted & maintained for free.
As predicted, Gale Brewer is “announcing the results” on her website, which is really what Participatory budgeting is all about. This is nothing more than a free giveaway to the 51 council members who get to write about their “largess” and their “fight for the community” it in their newsletters and crow about “all their achievements” in their latest legislative term.
It’s not to say that some of these ideas and proposals aren’t meritorious, but they should have been addressed in the normal process of government if they were. Yes, some schools might need high-tech whiteboards and many other areas might benefit from increased video surveillance cameras, but then they should have been put in those respective budgets and been looked at a whole in terms city-wide needs from the start.
This, on the contrary, is nothing more than free money given to 51 council members totaling (the math here is easy) 51 million dollars in the city budget. Is there really 51 million dollars laying around that has not been spent that can be handed out for these ‘worthy causes”? This is not how Government is run. We elect you, our council people to do the hard work and make these decisions. If you are not up to it, please resign. These are serious times to get our city back on its feet, not a time for participatory workarounds meant to pay off the populace with cheap gimmicks.
As an aside, I’m pretty sure I was at a school auction (mentioned here for a grant) where the PTA raised all the money for these “Promethean boards”, and we congratulated ourselves mightily for having done that – what a glorious night it was. Did they not get them after all, and why are they asking for the same thing again? I guess our children moved on to new schools and there is a new generation of parents to promise things to. Something is wrong here.
Bob, it’s not that the money is just sitting around. Discretionary funding is built around the premise that a local elected official will have better knowledge of how the money should be spend based on the needs of the community than a bureaucrat or higher elected official who is further removed from the specific community. It’s not free money, it is local control.
How does my local (10023)small business even get the opportunity to bid on any of these real life jobs being created? Eg the install on the cameras, etc.
I hope they plant up to 110th Street.
It’s sad security cameras received the most votes. I’m continually surprised at how much freedom people willingly cede to a police and surveillance state for a false sense of security. More cameras will not deter crime or promote public safety. If public safety is the goal then fund community programs, jobs and improve the people’s economic lives through people based policies.
It is sad that maintaining the bathrooms in public schools requires special project funding. It would seem that this should be part of the routine upkeep of all schools.
Cameras don’t deter crime, economic well-being does. Frankly, I don’t want my every move recorded, If you do there are many platforms for that.
I’ve lived on RSD since 1965, never once thought a camera would be helpful. That money could be put to much better use.
Let me see – do I trust your empty assertions or, 1) the myriad of scholarly research showing the positive effect of CCTVs on crime deterrence, 2) the literally billions of poor people around the world, living in economic conditions we’d consider untenable – who have never and will never commit a crime, 3) the scores of white-collar, rich people committing all sorts of crimes for additional gain, when they think they’d get away with it?
Peter, humans will always be greedy and white collar crime will not go away. When communities are lifted economically, what I remember the research showing was a drop in violent crime and theft for basic sustenance. The latter will not be deterred no matter what the penalty because it is a fight for existence. It is not that lifting the community economically will deter all crime, but it will make it so that enforcement will actually be able to deter crime. CCTV doesn’t prevent crime, it shifts it to a different area. And not necessarily by much; the shift could be measured in feet.
Please put pressure on whoever manages public housing to do repairs immidiately. People are living with holes in their ceilings, faulty plumbing and electricity, elevators not working and many other problems that the city has been neglecting.Thanks.
The sad part is that the NYC budget doesn’t include enough funds to actually keep the bathrooms up to standard. You would think this wasn’t an “extra” type of item…..