March 22, 2022 By Christian Murray
Astoria and East Elmhurst residents will get to vote next month on how the city should spend $1 million in the district on capital projects.
Council Member Tiffany Cabán has released a list of 14 items—each ranging in cost from $150,000 to $500,000—that will be put for a vote between April 2 through April 10. The projects with the most votes up until $1 million has been accounted for will be funded.
There are 14 proposals on the ballot, with two involving library upgrades, three dealing with park revamps, seven involving school projects, one tree planting initiative, and one for lights at the Astoria Houses parking lot (click here for complete list).
The proposals were put together by residents of the district. The public had until the end of last year to submit their ideas for funding, with a volunteer committee determining those that should go on the ballot after each proposal was vetted and matched to a city agency.
To make it on the ballot, a proposal was required to be a capital improvement that costs at least $50,000 and has a lifespan of at least five years.
Residents who want to vote must live in the 22nd Council District and be at least 11 years of age. There is no U.S. citizenship—or immigration status– requirement. Residents will be able to vote online and details as to physical voting sites will be announced in coming weeks.
Voters can select up to three proposals that they would like to see funded. The projects with the most votes– up to $1 million– will be selected.
Cabán is one of 15 council members who has opted into the process—known as participatory budgeting– for Fiscal Year 2023.
Queens Council Members Adrienne Adams and Jennifer Gutierrez (whose district includes part of Ridgewood) are in the process of unveiling the ballots in their respective districts.
Cabán and her colleagues who opted into the program will add the winning projects to the city budget in June for the following fiscal year. The projects are then implemented by the appropriate city agencies and/or community-based organizations.
The program — which was introduced to the City Council in 2011 and is often called the “People’s Budget” — was paused during the pandemic due the budget restrictions.
Not all projects, however, meet the criteria for traditional participatory budgeting since they are either less than $50,000 or are not capital projects.
Cabán has set aside a separate pot of public money—$50,000— for “expense budget items” and they will be put on a separate ballot. (Click here for list)
There are eight items on the ballot for expenses. The winning projects up until the $50,000 has been exhausted will be funded.
The public will also get to vote on the expense items at the same time as the capital improvements. Residents will be presented with two ballots—one will be for the capital projects, the other being for the expense projects.