Speaker Mark-Viverito and NYC Council Members Kick Off Voting for 2015-2016 Participatory Budgeting Cycle.

From March 26th to April 3rd, New Yorkers across 28 Council Districts will vote directly on nearly $32 million dollars in locally-developed capital projects

NEW YORK—Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York City Council Members kicked off the voting period for New York City’s 2015-2016 participatory budgeting cycle – the largest such process in the nation. This year, the majority of the City Council is participating, with 28 districts allocating nearly $32 million citywide for residents to collaboratively develop into local capital projects through a year-long process of neighborhood assemblies, delegate meetings, and project expositions. Voting for this cycle’s 371 projects will take place at over 400 poll sites and mobile voting locations throughout the city from Saturday, March 26th through Sunday, April 3rd.

“With 28 districts participating and over $32 million on the ballot, this is New York City’s most expansive and democratic participatory budgeting process yet,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Participatory budgeting puts power right into the hands of the people, enabling New Yorkers to brainstorm, develop, and vote on capital projects that will make a difference in their communities. By removing traditional barriers to civic engagement – including youth, immigration status, and language ability – this process enfranchises and embraces the full diversity of our city. I encourage New Yorkers across the city to find their nearest PB poll site and vote – because this is what democracy is all about.”

Participatory Budgeting is a grassroots process through which district residents vote directly to allocate at least $1 million in capital funding toward proposals developed by the community to meet local needs. Through a series of public meetings, residents work with elected officials throughout the year to identify neighborhood concerns and craft proposals to address them. Residents then decide which proposals to fund through a public vote.

New Yorkers can visit the New York City Council Participatory Budgeting website at council.nyc.gov/pb to find poll site locations, hours, and a map of proposed projects in their district. Residents can also text “PB” to 212-676-8384 to find out how to participate.

This cycle, eleven districts will pilot a program that allows for remote voting. Residents can register in person then vote online using any kind of personal device (phone, home computer, tablet) during vote week. Additionally, Brooklyn Borough Hall will be a universal poll site for Kings County, and Borough President Eric L. Adams has committed $1 million to support winning projects in Brooklyn’s ten participating Council districts. Select Amalgamated Bank branches around New York City will also act serve as participatory budget poll sites.

Ballots for the 2015-2016 Participatory Budgeting cycle have been designed for clarity and ease of use to maximize participation, and are available in nine languages other than English—Spanish, Chinese, French Creole, Korean, Russian, Polish, Greek, Yiddish, Bengali—based on local demographics in participating districts. Every district will also feature digital voting stations at poll sites as well as pop-up mobile voting sites on commercial strips, in community centers and building lobbies using mobile electronic devices provided by Microsoft and Google.

Good government groups hail Participatory Budgeting as a powerful tool to increase civic participation and community engagement. Voting in Participatory Budgeting is open to all residents of participating districts 14 years of age and older. The sole identification requirement is proof of residency in the district, removing traditional obstacles to full civic participation such as youth, income status, English-language proficiency and citizenship status. To ensure widespread and diverse voter participation, the New York City Council conducted targeted informational outreach to low-income, NYCHA, non-English speaking, LGBT, and Sandy-affected communities.

New Yorkers cast 51,362 ballots in the 2014-2015 Participatory Budgeting cycle. According to a report issued by the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center:

o The majority (57%) identified as people of color. This compares to 47% of local election voters and 66% of the total population of the districts.
o Nearly half (44%) earned under $50,000 a year.
o More than a quarter (28%) were born outside the U.S.
o Approximately 1 in 5 cast a ballot in a language other than English.
o Nearly a quarter (23%) had a barrier to voting in regular elections, including:
— 12% who reported they could not vote because they were under 18.
— 10% who reported they could not vote because they were not a U.S. citizen

For the 2015-2016 cycle, 28 Council Members facilitated Participatory Budgeting in their districts:

o Corey Johnson (District 3, Manhattan)
o Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan)
o Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Manhattan)
o Mark Levine (District 7, Manhattan)
o Melissa Mark-Viverito (District 8, Manhattan/Bronx)
o Ydanis Rodriguez (District 10, Manhattan)
o Andrew Cohen (District 11, Bronx)
o Ritchie Torres (District 15, Bronx)
o Paul Vallone (District 19, Queens)
o Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens)
o Costa Constantinides (District 22, Queens)
o Barry Grodenchik (District 23, Queens)
o Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens)
o Daneek Miller (District 27, Queens)
o Karen Koslowitz (District 29, Queens)
o Elizabeth Crowley (District 30, Queens)
o Donovan Richards (District 31, Queens)
o Eric Ulrich (District 32, Queens)
o Steve Levin (District 33, Brooklyn)
o Antonio Reynoso (District 34, Brooklyn/Queens)
o Laurie Cumbo (District 35, Brooklyn)
o Robert Cornegy (District 36, Brooklyn)
o Carlos Menchaca (District 38, Brooklyn)
o Brad Lander (District 39, Brooklyn)
o Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn)
o David Greenfield (District 44, Brooklyn)
o Jumaane Williams (District 45, Brooklyn)
o Mark Treyger (District 47, Brooklyn)

“PB is inclusive in every way, from start to finish, and I’m proud to bring PB to the Upper West Side for a second year. Unlike electoral voting, PB gives a voice to young people, non-U.S. citizens, and those who’ve given up on the electoral process. PB also brings residents into the decision-making process for funding city capital projects. It takes out the mystery of city bureaucracy,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“Participatory Budgeting is democracy in action” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “It brings everyday New Yorkers into the budget process, giving them the tools and the opportunity to brainstorm creative solutions to local issues. Through PB, we’re engaging young people, parents, NYCHA residents – just about anybody who has an idea of how to improve their community. And the results are clear – our schools, our parks, our libraries are being improved by PB and the community leaders that are making these projects a reality.”

“Participatory Budgeting is the ultimate civic engagement teaching tool we have, and I am proud to continue it in District 27 this year”, said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “How else are we able to engage thousands of New Yorkers in the municipal budgeting process, bring different segments of our communities together, and increase our quality of life all at the same time? I encourage everyone to vote next week and experience firsthand how empowering this process truly is.”

“Participatory budgeting strengthens our neighborhoods by giving residents a voice in how our tax dollars are spent on important projects in their communities,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “I’m proud that my constituents will once again be a part of this truly democratic process.”

“Participatory Budget empowers our communities to make real decisions on how to improve New York City. Last year, my district voted for better technology in schools, funding for more greenery and enhanced public safety. These investments contributed significantly to our quality of life and responded directly to the community’s needs. This year, District 21 has more projects, more volunteers and we are very excited to vote and spend $1 million where the people decide it should go,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

“In my district, we’ve seen real results from Participatory Budgeting,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. Not only do constituents become more involved in the neighborhood and government, but our budget better reflects the needs of the community. As one of the original Council Member to introduce PB, I am thrilled to see how much momentum this grassroots movement has gained and I applaud Speaker Mark Viverito for her leadership.”

“I am proud of ell the efforts made by our District Committee, Facilitators, Budget Delegates, and volunteers of District 34 to ensure a ballot that is all encompassing of the neighborhoods I represent across Brooklyn and Queens. We have some really innovative proposals and I am looking forward to hearing the voices of my constituents throughout Vote Week,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“Participatory Budgeting is democracy in action and a great way to have residents have a direct say in how their tax dollars are spent. That’s why I’m proud to bring PB to the 15th Council District for second year and having residents determine the improvement projects in their communities. Voting is powerful, and the PB process gives everyone the opportunity to put that power into action,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“Participatory Budgeting is a great example of democracy empowering people,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I encourage all residents who want to effect positive change in our community to come out and vote for their project of choice. Whether your passion is a love for green spaces and parks or your heart is in libraries and schools cast your vote and be a part of how $1,000,000 is spent in our neighborhood.”

“For me, PB will always be the People’s Budget. It has been an opportunity for real people to bring their ideas about a better neighborhood to life! I’m fortunate to be a part of this participatory process because it gives not only my community, but many communities in New York City the chance to be at “the table” making decisions. Plus, we’re making history! Community Voices Heard (CVH) along with others have been talking to hundreds of people by knocking on doors in public housing, handing out fliers at events, schools, and just telling our neighbors about vote week. Our ideas are actually being voted on by those we share the sidewalk with and the projects with the most votes get funded. I hope to be able to pass this experience on to my grandchildren and it can start with them joining me to vote next week. Participatory Budgeting New York City (PBNYC) Cycle 5, Let’s go!” said Esther DeVore, Community Voices Heard, Member-Leade.

“PBNYC has become such a great resource for residents and elected officials alike. Participatory Budgeting is an invaluable tool that gives residents an opportunity to help determine how public capital funds are allocated to best serve their communities. It also gives elected officials, myself included, a chance to hear directly from our residents about the issues they feel are most important. As a former civic teacher, it is also nice to see that students are able to participate in the civic process. I would like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for her leadership on this refreshing initiative, and I hope that PBNYC expands to include more districts in the future. I am urging all of my residents to get out there and vote. You can help decide how to spend public funds on community improvements to parks, schools, libraries, streets, and more through Participatory Budgeting,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

“Participatory budgeting gives residents a chance to personally decide how they want to see funds spent in their neighborhood. Residents of the 40th District had so many ideas and I look forward to seeing which ideas win in our district,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

Why shouldn’t people be able to vote on how their tax dollars are spent? Participatory Budgeting allows people the opportunity to directly influence local government spending decisions. Last year, District 38 had the largest number of PB voters in the City—over two-thirds of whom voted with non-English ballots. This year, our mandate is larger, our call is greater, and we hope to increase our voting numbers. I look forward to casting my ballot and I hope you will join me!” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“Participatory Budgeting gets the community involved to vote for projects that probably would not have been included in the city budget process, such as the On the Go Subway Kiosk that the community funded last cycle. Also, Participatory Budgeting gives my constituents the opportunity to become more involved in the community in which the live,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.

“This year for the first time, residents of all 28 participating PB districts will have the ability to cast their votes on a digital ballot,” added Lex Paulson, international counselor for D21. “We at D21 are committed to helping New York harness the power of technology to make PB ever more accessible, educational, and secure.”

“Participatory budgeting is a great way for our community to come together and collaborate on solutions for our neighborhoods. PB allows community residents to be truly involved in the budget process,” said Council Member Barry Grodenchik.

“I’m excited to bolster the voices of Brooklynites and help amplify their power to shape their tax dollars are spent in our borough. PB is a revolutionary approach to growing democracy from the ground up, and this partnership with the City Council will cultivate that growth even further, funding more capital projects and engaging more potential voters,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“City Council is changing the way government works for ordinary New Yorkers,” said Josh Lerner, Executive Director of the non-profit Participatory Budgeting Project (participatorybudgeting.org). “When communities across 28 districts vote to directly decide how their tax dollars get spent, real democracy gets stronger. As participatory budgeting grows across the U.S., PBNYC sets the standard for innovative, transparent leadership and inclusion.”

“Participatory budgeting is an incredible opportunity to engage and empower people of all backgrounds in a Democratic process to collectively decide how we can spend $1 million to fund capital projects that will strengthen our community. It is a renewal of the belief that everyday people possess the authority to create real change in their own community,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “I was proud to implement Participatory Budgeting in the 35th District for the very first time to gain key insight into the needs that exist within the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. This is an exciting time for the diverse voices of my district to allocate real money towards real projects as a reflection of real power. The success of this endeavor relies on the full participation of our youth, seniors, and families. As this empowering budget process enters the final phase, I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and continued commitment to civic engagement.”

“Participatory Budgeting gives residents of the 26th District the ability to participate in a grassroots process and allocate over $1 million to the projects they love most. I’m proud of the work our budget delegates did to winnow down hundreds of ideas into 19 real, implementable projects, and encourage everyone in Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, and Astoria to go out this week and vote!” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

“Participatory Budgeting is civic engagement at its finest. There is no better way to get engaged in your community than to help decide how tax dollars can improve the areas that need the most attention in the neighborhood,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “We have had two great years in a row in District 31 and I can’t wait to see what the Rockaway community comes up with next to help improve our neighborhood. I look forward to seeing our Rockaway residents deliver the biggest PB voter turnout District 31 has seen so far.”

“Participatory Budgeting brings people from all backgrounds into the governing process and enlists every resident in the cause of strengthening our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “In District 7, many of the innovative, locally developed initiatives that have emerged from this process would not have come to light without community input. This exercise in civic participation promotes the kind of collaboration between residents and local leaders that’s needed to create a more inclusive and transparent government. I am proud to offer the people of the 7th Council District the chance to decide how to spend $1 million of their own tax dollars for the second straight year.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “We are proud to bring the city budget process directly to our residents again this year through Participatory Budgeting. Our neighborhood has already taken a strong interest in the civic process and we are excited to see even more residents engaged during voting week. This volunteer-driven process is at its strongest when the community gets out and votes for their favorite projects. I hope to have a large turnout this year and look forward to seeing the winning projects.”

“When my office first started Participatory Budgeting, we set out to reach every person in the community to hear what they really needed for their neighborhood. I am so pleased with the great ideas that came in – it’s the residents who know their community the best, and I’m thrilled to have them be a part of this process. Our budget delegates have since been hard at work putting developing the proposals, and got the unique opportunity to work with city agencies and see how the budgeting process really works. Now, with the final ballot set, I look forward to seeing the results. We can best improve our communities when we work productively together,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

“Power to the people has long been a rallying cry for those fighting for a more just and democratic society; in New York City, we are answering that call,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Putting decision making power into the hands of local communities means a real voice at the table for thousands of residents. Each of the projects voted on provide important quality-of-life benefits to areas where they might otherwise fall through the cracks. I am a proud supporter of participatory budgeting in New York City and hope that this model can be translated around the country as direct democracy is the most empowering thing we can offer to our residents.”

“In our district’s fourth year of Participatory Budgeting it is exciting to see the continued dedication and hard work of all the community volunteers that work to make this grassroots process such a success. Just listening to the great ideas the community proposes and seeing the great projects on the ballot every year reaffirms that the best projects really do come from the bottom up. That’s why I have increased our commitment to $1.5 million. I am looking forward to vote week and seeing this year’s winning projects,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“I am thrilled to bring Participatory Budgeting to the 11th Council District for the second year in a row. This innovative process will give my neighbors a direct voice in how their tax dollars are spent on projects that will address community needs. It is my hope that through this process, we will be able to give City residents more confidence in government and increase civic engagement. We have 12 projects on the ballot this year, the more participation and higher voter turnout we have will ensure that our communities will benefit in the long run,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

“I’m very proud that Participatory Budgeting will again be taking place in my district this year. PB is a great way for New Yorkers to have a real say in how their tax dollars are spent. It gives voters a chance to direct funding to projects that their neighborhoods really need – because nobody knows what a community needs better than the people who live there. I urge my constituents and all New Yorkers to come out and take part in this vitally important process,” said Council Member David Greenfield.

“As a union-owned bank, Amalgamated understands the importance of individual participation in the democratic process. When people come together and have a say, progress is made,” said Keith Mestrich, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank. “Participatory budgeting has funded parks, school repairs, services for seniors – all the things that matter to strong communities. We are thrilled to help connect City Councilmembers with their constituents and to help those constituents have a say about how their budget is spent.”

“Google is thrilled to provide the hardware for these pop-up digital voting stations. Participatory budgeting is a powerful tool that is democracy in its purest form: it gives New Yorkers a chance to determine and direct money according to their collective priorities. Technology can help expand the reach of this process so more citizens can be involved and make their voices heard,” said William Floyd, head of external affairs for Google New York.

“Participatory budgeting is an exciting way to engage residents in their city and in their democracy,” said Matt Stempeck, Director of Civic Technology at Microsoft. “We look forward to working with the New York City Council to help empower New Yorkers and this process with our technology.”

“Our research over the years has shown that PB in New York City can have success in engaging a diverse group of community members, including many who are excluded from regular voting processes, such as youth under 18 and non-citizens. We look forward to seeing this unique civic engagement process continue to grow with a focus on equity and inclusion!” said Erin Markman, Community Development Project, Urban Justice Center.

“Democracy doesn’t get much better than participatory budgeting,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “PBNYC is truly ‘revolutionary civics in action,’ and the New York City Council is proud to be at the forefront. We’ve seen incredible growth since we started five years ago. Every year new leaders come forward, new ideas are proposed, new young people get involved in the political process, thousands of residents come out to vote, and great new projects get underway. This year I’m excited to be offering the opportunity to vote on expense funding in our district for the first time ever. Over the years we’ve fixed flooded paths in Prospect Park, restored decrepit bathrooms in our public schools, made our streets safer, and brought new technology and cultural space to our libraries. More than that: we’ve restored faith in democracy as a grassroots process that lets the voices of our residents be heard, and lets people step up together as stewards of our shared public realm.”

“I’m very excited as we kick off this Participatory Budgeting voting period,” said Council Member Paul Vallone. “Participatory budgeting is a great way to get the pulse of the community and see what everyone believes city dollars and resources should be spent on. Last year’s successful cycle, which garnered thousands of votes, shows the power and importance of this grassroots fueled process and I look forward to announcing this year’s winners.”

“Implementing participatory budgeting for the first time has been a lot of worthwhile work. I feel like I have so many new partners in government among my own constituents. Those who took part in PB understand so much more about how city government & capital funding work. Now is the time to focus on the turn-out aspect of this democratic process, neighbors connecting with neighbors and gaining their support. I cannot wait to see how the votes turn out,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy.