Monday, September 19, 2011


City Councilmember Brad Lander wants to know how you would like to see $1,000,000 in capital funding spent:

Our neighborhood is about to experience a new kind of democracy. Over the next several months, we will undertake an exciting initiative to put budgeting decisions directly in the hands of the people those decisions will impact most – that means you.

The new initiative, called “participatory budgeting,” is grassroots democracy at its best. Residents in our district will come together, exchange and debate ideas, work together to turn ideas into project proposals, and then decide what ideas get funded at the ballot box. 

At stake is $1 million in capital funding (the part of the budget that is used to repair streets, improve parks, buy school technology, or build bike lanes). What would you do with that money? 

The process will make budgeting more transparent and accessible. It will open up participation to people who have never been involved before. And it will make budgeting more effective, because who knows better what is needed in our communities than you. 

But it will only work if you and your neighbors get involved. 

The first step comes in October, when we will be holding “Neighborhood Budget Assemblies” throughout the district.  This is your opportunity to learn more about your new role in setting our budgeting priorities … and then offer your ideas for projects that could be built in our neighborhood. Here are the dates and locations for those meetings:

  • October 5th: Old First Reformed Church, 729 Carroll Street, 6:30 PM, RSVP here
  • October 13th: PS 154, 1625 11th Avenue, 6:30 PM, RSVP here
  • October 17th: PS 230 Cafeteria, 1 Albemarle Road, 6:30 PM, RSVP here
  • October 20th: PS 58, 330 Smith Street, 6:30 PM, RSVP here
  • October 26th: Beth Jacob Child Care Center, 1363 46th Street, 6:30 PM, RSVP here

We are going to need a lot of help pulling together these historic assemblies (and throughout the process). If you would like to volunteer, either to help spread the word about the assemblies or volunteering at the assemblies themselves, please email me at 

I know -- it is easy to become disillusioned with politics. Too often, your representatives say they want to hear your opinion on the issues of the day, but make no commitment to honor it. But this is different. I am committing to let you, the residents of this district, allocate $1 million in capital funding to the projects that you think are most important. If we work together, I really believe that this process will not only lead to great projects, but toward a renewal of local democracy in our community. 

The same groundbreaking experiment is being launched in three other City Council districts this year. These districts cover parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and the effort is bi-partisan.  There was also a good story in the New York Times last week about our efforts.  I am proud to be part of this historic initiative, and I hope you will be part of it to. 

Keep an eye on for updates on the participatory budgeting process. Remember, just like democracy, it only works if you participate.


PS: To get an idea of what to expect, check out this short online video that was made about a similar process in one neighborhood of Chicago:  

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