Why the city’s participatory budgeting process needs your voice

The city’s participatory budgeting process, which pools public opinion on what to do with capital dollars, has returned after a 2-year suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year marks its 12th cycle.

Participatory budgeting essentially gives community members over 11 years old the opportunity to submit and share ideas, and then ultimately vote on which physical infrastructure projects receive money. This year, 28 council members are asking residents how to spend at least $28 million in funds. Ideas center around anything from schools, parks, and libraries to public housing, said city council.

“It is always critical that we strengthen local civic participation and engagement,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams in a statement. “As we begin the process of collecting ideas and crafting projects, I encourage all New Yorkers to get involved in participatory budgeting and share your input on community priorities.”

The city hopes the collaborative process will engage people who have historically been underrepresented.

The process’s democratic roots actually stem from Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989. A majority of the city’s resident’s wrestled with poverty, homelessness, and hunger in isolated slums without access to clean water, sanitation, medicine, or schools. South Brazilians were able to combat these “extreme disparities in income and quality of life” in their communities and bridge the wealth gap when participatory budgeting was implemented. Other nations were so inspired by the success of community involvement in the budgeting process that over 5,500 municipalities adopted it.

In 2011, then-councilmembers Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams brought the process to New York City.

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