BY ANGELA MATUA
Councilman Eric Ulrich announced on Monday the results of participatory budgeting in District 32 for the areas of Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.
The process, which allows community members to decide how a portion of the public budget is spent, began in November with local brainstorming sessions. Residents in these neighborhoods then met with city agency representatives to review the proposals.
The ballot included eight capital proposals submitted by local residents. A total of 692 constituents who cast ballots whittled down the proposals to five.
“Participatory budgeting empowers local communities and strengthens relationships between elected officials and the people they serve,” Ulrich said. “I am deeply grateful to everyone that contributed and I look forward to bringing PB back next year to allow my constituents a real say in how their tax dollars are being spent.”
The winning proposal with the most votes included technology upgrades at P.S. 90, P.S. 97, P.S. 66 and P.S. 306. The project received 465 votes with a total of $300,000 being allocated to the four schools.
Residents cast 326 votes to bring $200,000 worth of security upgrades to Ozone Park Library and renovations to Richmond Hill Library.
Rebecca Babirye-Alibatya, the manager at Richmond Hill Library, was excited to learn that the community voted to allow for much-needed renovations to the 100-year-old building, she said.
“We need major renovations. We are one of the only libraries without self-check-in and checkout machines,” Babirye-Alibatya said. “Our basement is in need of renovations. The electrical wiring is as old as the building [and] there are so many things we can use the money for.”
Babirye-Alibatya said the library would also look to buy new computers and tablets and try to expand the basement to add more rooms to host activities for children and the community.
Residents also voted for emergency call boxes to be installed throughout Forest Park to improve safety with 312 votes from the community. The installation will cost $140,000.
Another school to receive funding in the district is P.S. 64 in Ozone Park, which received 237 votes for a $300,000 auditorium upgrade.
The 9/11 Memorial in Forest Park was the last proposal to be funded and received 239 votes and $250,000 for a total refurbishing.