BY SAM BOJARSKI
BROOKLYN — One idea is for a community food kitchen at Newkirk and Coney Island avenues. Another calls for a subway mural to be painted at the Parkside Avenue Q train station. A third calls for stormwater infrastructure, to build flood resilience.
In all, more than 45 proposals for infrastructure improvements have been submitted by Council District 40 residents through participatory budgeting, a process by which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Each participating council member receives $1 million to allocate to infrastructure projects, costing at least $50,000 and that will last five years or more.
District 40 is among 14 council districts, out of 51 total, participating in the current fiscal year’s participatory budget cycle. According to the city’s Civic Engagement Commission (CEC), the first phase, idea collection, began in fall 2021 and ends Jan. 23.
“Participatory budgeting allows for neighborhood residents to directly decide how to spend part of our city’s public budget,” District 40 Council Member Rita Joseph said via email. “All City Council offices get the option to participate in [participatory budgeting], but most of them do not.”
To share an idea, residents must create an NYC ID account and submit their proposed projects online. After they are collected, ideas are submitted to the relevant city agencies and vetted by council offices before they come up for a public vote. The week-long voting period is scheduled to begin on April 2, per the CEC.
New Yorkers approved participatory budgeting in a late 2018 ballot referendum. The program was rolled out the following year, with funding improvements to parks, increased video surveillance and other projects citywide. It was suspended during the pandemic’s early days in 2020 and relaunched last year, reported The City news outlet.
District 40 encompasses the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park and Prospect-Lefferts Garden. One of the most heavily Haitian districts in the city, it contains about 13,000 residents of Haitian descent, per census data, in a total population of 151,000 people.