Melissa unveiled the 2012-2013 Participatory Budgeting (PB) vote results for the 8th Council District on Monday evening at a celebration featuring San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto. In response to the growing participation and excitement around the process in its second year, Melissa nearly doubled her initial commitment of $1 million to the process. This year, 1,770 District 8 residents voted in the process, as compared to just over 1,000 last year.
The $1.9 million in projects funded through PB for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget are:
- Security cameras for Douglass, East River, Johnson and Millbrook houses — 964 votes
- New Laptops for 9 Schools in District 8– 857 votes
- Technology Centers for Seniors and Youth — 706 votes
- Mobile cooking classroom for SMART (Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research and Treatment) — 534 votes
- Solar powered Greenhouse — 533 votes
- Hoops by the River — upgrade Jefferson B-ball Courts — 501 votes
“I could not be more thrilled with the level of participation or the results,” Melissa said. “The winning projects are a reflection of the community’s concerns about public health, safety, youth, seniors and public parks. I thank all of our incredible partners in this process including Community Voices Heard, the Participatory Budgeting Project and the budget delegates for their hard work throughout the process.”
The tireless dedication and commitment from the community volunteers, otherwise known as ‘budget delegates’, was truly inspiring. Delegates came together from all different social, cultural, and economic backgrounds to work as a team of urban planners, community organizers, and decision-makers. Together they analyzed hundreds of project ideas, and through a long and grueling process they narrowed them down to twenty-one project proposals to address a wide variety of community needs such as more access to technology in our public schools, senior-friendly spaces, safe public housing, quality recreational spaces, transportation improvements, community gardens and urban agriculture.
One story that stands out in this process was the engagement of formerly incarcerate youth of color who worked on the education committee and developed one of the winning project proposals for new computers and technology in local schools. Another is that of Susan Rodriguez who works with SMART (Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/ HIV Research and Treatment), who has been very concerned about public health and the lack of nutritious food options in her community.
“First of all, just meeting and speaking with the Mayor of San Juan and knowing that she wants to bring PB to her city was one of the highlights of the evening!” said Rodriguez. “Of course, I was overjoyed when SMART’s Mobile Cooking Classroom won and I thank everyone who came out to vote! This has been an extraordinary process for me, meeting and working with other budget delegates, community organizers and residents, especially in Millbrook Houses/Mott Haven, and learning how to make our community and city the best it can be.”
Last year, which was the first year of PBNYC, Ray Figueroa proposed a solar-powered greenhouse to teach urban agriculture to court-involved youth in the South Bronx, but it did not receive enough votes to win. This year however, the greenhouse pulled through.
“Participatory Budgeting re-enfranchises the dis-enfranchised,” said Figueroa. “It reaches out to the most marginalized residents in the most underserved sectors of our community and honors them as the experts of our community. Participatory Budgeting respects their human dignity in this regard, and, by so doing, helps to galvanize their sense of ownership as community stakeholders and re-defines what it means to be civically engaged.”
The last winning project with 501 votes, was the Jefferson Park basketball courts which have not been renovated in decades. These courts are heavily used by the Hoops by the River basketball league, run by Will Kelly and his son, Will Kelly II. “It is wonderful that we were able to mobilize our youth and community residents to finally make these much needed safety upgrades to this court,” said Kelly. “This way we can run a quality league and expand our work to combat youth violence and promote health.”