Help decide how to spend $1 million
by Ed Wendell
Nov 12, 2014 | 3274 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you had a million dollars that you could spend on your community, where would you start? That’s the question facing residents of Woodhaven and the rest of the northern section of Council District 32, and the brainstorming starts this Saturday, November 15, at noon at the American Legion Hall, 89-02 91st Street.

In Woodhaven, we’re lucky that Councilman Eric Ulrich is a big supporter of this progressive program, which is known as Participatory Budgeting.

Participatory Budgeting allows ordinary residents to decide how to spend part of the city’s budget. It started back in the 1980s in Brazil and has spread all over the world.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association embraced the process last year, which got off to a very late start. A ballot of nine potential projects was put together and residents from Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park came out and voted.

Ultimately, the residents chose to support close to $400,000 in upgrades to local schools, the installation of real-time bus clocks at local stops, paving portions of Woodhaven Boulevard, paving paths in Forest Park and upgrades to the Richmond Hill Library.

Only a small fraction of residents came out and voted last year, due in part to the short window in which we operated. Plus, it was just our first year. Participatory Budgeting will not work unless the first word of that phrase is adhered to; in other words, people need to participate.

This Saturday, residents will brainstorm and come up with ideas for way to spend the $1 million that the councilman has pledged to this program. We’re asking residents to come to the meeting with fresh ideas on how this money can be put to good use.

There are a few limitations you should factor in when coming up with your ideas. First of all, only projects that cost $35,000 or more will be considered. Secondly, these must be tangible, brick-and-mortar projects, not projects that will require additional funding to keep it going or supplies that will run out and need to be replaced.

For example, new benches or fencing is acceptable, but supplies to clean graffiti would not pass review, as that would need funding to replace it in the future. So, basically, we’re looking for ideas of some lasting permanence.

A brainstorming session is not about shooting down ideas, rather it is an effort to gather residents and engage one another in conversations about ways to make our community a better place to live. Come to the table with new ideas and you’ll find open minds and ears eager to hear them. That’s a guarantee.

Here is another guarantee: if you don’t come to the session, if you don’t participate in the process, your ideas will never bear fruit. Your voice will not be heard. The choice, as they say, is entirely up to you.

Again, that’s Saturday, November 15, at Noon at the American Legion Hall, 89-02 91st Street (behind PS 60). You do not have to be a member of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association to participate in this session, just a resident of our community. We hope to see you there.

Also, if you are coming to the meeting, please consider bringing a new, unwrapped toy (no stuffed animals) for the young residents of the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside. There will be a toy run by the East Coast Car Association the next day and the WRBA will be participating and will hand deliver any toys directly to the hospital.

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