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Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) plays an important role in giving communities the ability to directly impact the capital budgeting process. It motivates New Yorkers to engage the civic process and make decisions by sharing ideas, developing proposals, and voting on community projects. Since 2011, PBNYC has strengthened our communities and made our city stronger over the last few years.

What is Participatory Budgeting (PB)?

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. The process began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989. Today, there are more than 3,000 participatory budgeting processes around the world, most at the municipal level.

What is PBNYC?

In 2011, four New York City Council Members – Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams – launched a PB process to allow residents in their district to allocate part of their capital discretionary funds. Over the years, the process has grown to include a majority of Council Members, giving communities real decision-making over more than $35 million in taxpayer money on an annual basis.

In 2019, 33 Council Members participated in PBNYC, asking residents how to spend at least $35 million in capital funding. Following a series of phases to produce a community ballot, projects that receive the most votes during a nine-day Vote Week are adopted in the City’s fiscal year budget.

young Participatory Budgeting voters. Photo by Raul Rothblatt

PBNYC funds physical infrastructure projects that benefit the public, cost at least $50,000 and have a lifespan of at least 5 years. Local improvements to schools, parks, libraries, public housing, streets and other public spaces can be funded through this process.

How Does It Work?

timeline graphic of Participatory Budgeting

Idea Collection and Volunteer Recruitment

August – October
Through community meetings, residents brainstorm ideas and recruit Budget Delegates for the current cycle.

Proposal Development

October – January
Budget Delegates transform ideas into full proposals, with support from city agencies and staff. Delegates narrow down proposals and select projects that meet the needs of the community.

GOTV and Vote Week

March – April
Once proposals have been determined, Budget Delegates and residents get out the vote and prepare for a nine day community vote.

Evaluation and Planning

May – June
Winning projects are included in New York City’s upcoming fiscal year budget. Staff and stakeholders evaluate the process and oversee the implementation of winning projects by agencies.

To learn about the NYC Civic Engagement Commission’s PB process, click here