May 16, 2022 By Christian Murray
Residents of Council District 22 voted to spend $500,000 on outdoor lighting at Astoria Houses and $275,000 on tech upgrades at local schools, along with two other projects, when they went to the polls last month to determine how $1 million of city capital should be spent in the district through a process called participatory budgeting.
Councilmember Tiffany Cabán announced today the four winning projects that will be funded. The two other projects that are to be funded include $150,000 for a street tree initiative and $200,000 for computer lab upgrades at I.S. 126.
Participatory budgeting allows residents to decide how to spend a portion of the city council’s budget in the district. Cabán is one of 14 council members who opted into the process for Fiscal Year 2023.
About 3,000 residents of the 22nd Council District— which encompasses Astoria, East Elmhurst, and parts of Woodside—voted between April 2 and April 10.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the thousands of neighbors who came together in this inspiring exercise of direct democracy,” Cabán said in a statement. “No one knows the needs and hopes of our community better than the community itself, and the winning initiatives could not be more worthy, exciting, and meaningful.”
Voters could select up to three of the 14 capital projects that were put up for a vote. Residents who live in the district and were at least 11 years of age were eligible to participate.
The proposal that received the most votes—1,310 in all— was the tech upgrades for local schools in the 22nd Council District, which include P.S. 122, P.S. 151, P.S. 171, I.S. 126 and I.S. 235.
The second most popular project was for the street planting initiative, with 864 votes, followed by the Astoria Houses lighting, with 778 votes, and the I.S. 126 computer lab upgrades, with 721 votes.
Cabán also put aside a separate pot of public money—$50,000—for expense items. These items were on a separate ballot and voters had eight items to choose from. Voters selected four of them.
Astoria’s First Gender Justice Center will be receiving $20,000; $18,000 will be allocated to the Variety Boys & Girls Club to fund its “Basics of Cooking” series; The Connected Chef, which operates a weekly farm stand, will receive $10,000; and $5,000 will be going to the Art House Astoria for pop-up art classes.
Participatory Budgeting was first launched in New York City in 2011 with four Council Members. By 2019, a 33-member majority of the Council was participating. The program was put on hold during the pandemic due to city budget concerns.
The projects selected by voters will be included in the city budget in June for the 2023 fiscal year that starts July 1.