Tag Archives: District 31

Participatory budgeting extends to more Queens council districts

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photos

Residents in nine Queens City Council districts will be given the power this year to decide where and how their tax dollars will be spent in their communities.

Last spring, community members in three Queens council districts – Councilman Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilman Donovan Richard’s District 31 and Councilman Eric Ulrich’s District 32 – were given the opportunity to vote on community projects that would benefit from one million dollars of each council member’s capital discretionary funds.

This year joining those three districts are six new Queens council districts including Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ District 21, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s District 29, Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s District 27, Councilman Paul Vallone’s District 19, Councilman Costa Constantinides’ District 22 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s District 26.

The overall process begins in the fall when residents suggest ideas and choose budget delegates during public meetings. Those volunteers then develop proposals based on the suggestions which are presented to the public before the voting occurs.

Voting this year will take place between April 11 and April 19 and each voter, ages 16 and up, can chose up to five projects. A total of 24 council members throughout the city are participating in this year’s voting.

“Participatory budgeting has been rewarding for our entire district. This entire process has featured ideas generated by members of the community,” Constantinides said. “It has provided an opportunity for residents to become engaged with the civic process through events and meeting. Everyone has shared their common love of their neighborhood and become more interconnected.”

Projects being voted on in Constantinides’ district include renovations at local schools, such as sound proofing P.S. 122’s cafeteria, redesigning the streetscape on Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 22rd streets to construct a pedestrian plaza, turning unused lots into dog runs in Astoria and Jackson Heights, and renovating the basketball court at the Astoria Houses.

In Councilman Miller’s district, residents will be able to vote on 23 projects which include improvements at local parks, technology upgrades at schools and enhancing cultural facilities such as upgrading the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

The $1 million in projects that residents in District 19 can vote on include creating a $400,000 state-of-the-art music studio at Bayside High School, funding three NYPD security cameras, and installing real time passenger countdown clocks along the Q12 and Q13 bus routes.

“With a wide range of voting locations throughout northeast Queens, we encourage and hope to see everyone come out and vote for the projects that they believe will have the best impact on the community,” Vallone said.

In District 23, voters can choose projects such as upgrades to the Queens Village and North Hills libraries, fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park, technology upgrades at local schools and portable security cameras at three sites.

Residents in Councilman Ulrich’s district that encompasses Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park can vote on projects such as renovating the Forest Park Dog Park, refurbishing the 9/11 memorial in Forest Park and installing emergency call boxes in Forest Park. For residents living in the councilman’s district in the Rockaway peninsula, projects include a $500,000 repair of center medians along Cross Bay Boulevard, upgrades to local schools, and the construction of a rock climbing wall in Rockaway Beach adjacent to the new boardwalk.

For more information on the projects and where to vote, click here.


Districting debacle: Blurry line for Cambria Heights

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the NYC Districting Commission

Cambria Heights residents are standing unified against a proposal to divide them into two council districts.

Around 400 people attended an emergency town hall meeting on Sunday, October 21, hosted by attorney and assembly hopeful Clyde Vanel.

“We were expecting 40 people,” said Vanel, who was pleasantly surprised by the community turnout.

Vanel told the community that the New York City Districting Commission was drawing up plans to move a section of Cambria Heights from District 27 into the neighboring District 31. This map was based on population changes from the 2010 census, designed to make sure each district contains an equal number of constituents.

However, at Community Board 13’s monthly meeting the next day on Monday, October 22, residents learned that the commission is working on revising this proposed map, and trying to keep the neighborhood together.

Jonathan Ettricks, director of community outreach for the commission, attended Monday’s meeting and spoke to over 100 concerned residents.

“The first proposal cut out a small piece of Cambria Heights based on population change only,” said Ettricks. “It didn’t take into account the needs and concerns of the people of Cambria Heights.”

The current line for District 27 runs along 121st Avenue from Springfield Boulevard to the Cross Island Parkway. The preliminary draft moves 119th Avenue from Springfield Boulevard to 230th Street into District 31.

Ettricks said that the first proposal was scratched last week — before Sunday’s town hall meeting — and that “the people who organized the meeting hadn’t looked at the [districting] website or called me.”

After a second public hearing on Wednesday, October 10, the commission began revising maps based on public input.

“The goal is to try to put Cambria Heights into [District] 27,” said Ettricks.

“They’re going to ‘try’?” countered Vanel, who is continuing to urge community engagement.

Vanel insists that Sunday’s emergency meeting was necessary, because a large majority of the community was still unaware of the redistricting proposal, as shown from the large turnout.

“I don’t understand how the commission could tell the community: ‘We met, we’ll try to keep Cambria Heights in one community, but the process is still going,” said Vanel. “How definitive is that?”

At the town hall meeting, Vanel passed around a petition, and hopes to acquire 1,000 signatures. He also suggests that residents write letters to the commission voicing their concerns. The process, according to Vanel, is “still not over.”

“Go to your block, go to your neighbors, go to your friends. Empower yourselves,” he said.

However, Ettricks said that the commission is in fact working to accommodate the neighborhood.

“As long as Cambria Heights can be put into [District] 27 as a whole without exceeding the deviation called for by the charter, it’s something that could be done, and that’s what we’re looking at now,” he said.

The New York City charter that Ettricks referenced requires drawing district lines that keep neighborhoods intact.

The next public meeting addressing this issue, among others citywide, is being held at New York Law School on Tuesday, October 30, at 1 p.m. Final draft plans from the commission will be submitted to the City Council by November 5; if those plans are rejected, another round of public hearings will commence. Residents can visit www.nyc.gov/districting for more information.

“People need to continue to pay attention to the process,” said Ettricks.