Councilmen in northeast Queens announced the winning projects to be funded with their participatory budgeting allowances, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.
Councilman Paul Vallone announced the four winning projects from District 19 in a press conference in his Bell Boulevard office on Monday, with a crowd of community members waiting on his every word to see if their favored project would be chosen. This year 2,300 votes were cast the district.
The project that received the most votes in District 19 was to build a state-of-the-art music studio for Bayside High School for $400,000. The proposal received 1,430 votes, and will serve 350 students in the school’s “Career and Technical Education” program for music production and performance.
“Participatory budgeting was a great experience for our students and we look forward to the positive effect the new music studio will provide to our academic programming,” said John Hirata, Bayside High School assistant principal of operations.
An auditorium upgrade for P.S. 169 received the most votes after the Bayside High School music studio with a total of 1,041, and will also cost $400,000. The elementary school will receive replacements in lighting, curtains, seating and a sound system for the auditorium that students share with middle school Bell Academy.
“We are so thrilled to have this auditorium upgrade because both our schools really need it,” said Orit Foresta, a parent coordinator at P.S. 169. “We do a lot of arts, a lot of shows in our schools.”
The other two projects to be funded in District 19 are $90,000 in technology upgrades for P.S. 159 and the installation of three NYPD security cameras throughout the district for $105,000.
Councilman Mark Weprin announced the winning participatory budget proposals for District 23 on Friday, April 24. Weprin was one of the first eight City Council members to offer participatory budgets to constituents in 2012, the initiative’s first year. Twenty-four districts have since adopted the process.
“It is my hope that next year, more of my colleagues embrace participatory budgeting,” Councilman Weprin said. “It’s a great way to get community residents involved — especially those who may not be actively involved in the political process.”
A District 23 proposal with 1,146 votes received the most support, and will see $455,000 in technology upgrades coming to nine local schools. All of the schools serve children at elementary grade levels except for one, the Queens High School of Teaching.
A entry for fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park was in second place for most votes in District 23, with a total of 1,065 voting in favor of the $450,000 project. The last proposal to be funded is a plan to use $300,000 for renovations at the physical education facilities of Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside and Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.