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The city wants to fund your community improvement ideas with ‘The People’s Money’

Oct. 12, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan

A participatory budgeting process to allow New Yorkers to decide how to spend part of the city’s budget, a fairly novel initiative coined the “The People’s Money,” is now open for idea submissions

Phase 1 of the new cycle kicked off on Oct. 10 and will last until Nov. 19. During this idea generation period, all New Yorkers over the age of 11, and regardless of immigration status, can submit ideas for projects that address the needs of their community. 

Projects must involve an expense, such as an after-school program or mental health initiative and should be able to be completed within a year. They must also be feasible and compliant with NYC laws and regulations. Ideas cannot involve construction, reconstruction or any physical public improvement or changes to city agencies, such as adding staff. 

An early model of participatory budgeting came to the city in 2011. Photo by Daniel Latorre

In Phase 2, residents and subject-matter expert committees will collaborate to evaluate the submitted ideas and determine how to best shape ideas into projects, which will then be narrowed down for the ballot. In Phase 3, from April 15th through May 24th 2024, local residents will be able to vote for the projects they want to see funded, either online or in various locations across the five boroughs.

A citywide participatory budgeting program was voted into the NYC Charter in 2018 along with the establishment of the NYC Civic Engagement Commission. But its roots go back to Port Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 as an-anti poverty tool. Today it allows thousands of Brazilians to vote on the allocation of half of the municipal budget to schools, parks, transportation and social programs though local public meetings.

Anyone over the age of 11 can submit ideas for their community. Photo courtesy of NYC CEC

Across the city, there are 104 community partners that are engaging in outreach efforts. Some Queens locations include: Queens Community House in Forest Hills, Minkwon Center for Community Action in Flushing and Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York in Bayside. 

The first citywide cycle, from 2022-2023, had 46 projects receive funding and are now in the process of being implemented by community organizations. Three projects from Queens received $280,000 each after securing the most votes: Young Entrepreneurs Program, Parent support and Wellness Services and Healthy Lifestyle Guidance for Kids.

There were also over a dozen neighborhoods in Queens identified by the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity as having high health and socioeconomic disparities, which received funding for their own programs. Queens Village has incoming Youth Drug Prevention Workshops, Woodhaven will receive an Immigration Resources Center and Briarwood will have a vocational youth training program.

Mayor Eric Adams delivered remarks at an idea generating session last year. Photo Credit: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office

In last year’s cycle, a total of 110,371 ballots were counted, with the vast majority being paper ballots, to select the programs that would receive funding. In Queens, there were over 30,000 ballots submitted and over 120,000 votes. New Yorkers could vote in favor of as many projects as they want, but the ones with the highest percentage of votes will be selected. 

Dozens of Idea Generation workshops are being held and facilitated by community organizations. While many sessions have already been filled, several are still open across Queens. In Forest Hills, Queens Community House also shared that they plan to add more sessions in the coming weeks. 

All projects that make it out of the idea generation phase and receive enough votes will be completed by June 2025.

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