2011-10-28 / Top Stories

Local Residents To Spend $1,000,000

Participatory Budgeting Process Begins
By Howard Schwach


City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s chief of staff, Bart Haggerty, with Sondra Youdelman, the executive director of Community Voices Heard, the group running the participatory budgeting process. City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s chief of staff, Bart Haggerty, with Sondra Youdelman, the executive director of Community Voices Heard, the group running the participatory budgeting process. Forty local residents got together at PS/MS 114 in Belle Harbor last week to begin a process that will eventually spend $1 million of public money on capital projects on the peninsula that they believe are most necessary.

It’s called Participatory Budgeting, and the meeting was called by City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who is betting the million from his discretionary fund that the locals know best what the money should be used for.

In all, there will be five local groups meeting in the initial phase.

The first neighborhood assemblies to meet were at Breezy Point and in Rockaway Park. The next group will meet in Rockaway Beach, at the Knights of Columbus Hall on November 3 and in Broad Channel at the VFW Hall on November 7.


Locals brainstorm ideas at the meeting. Locals brainstorm ideas at the meeting. There are four City Council Districts working with the process, one in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, and Councilman Ulrich’s District 32, which includes the western end of the Rockaway peninsula.

Local resident Hank Iori, who is working with Ulrich on the process, gave a quick PowerPoint presentation on the process and then the participants worked in small groups with facilitators to come up with ways of spending the money.

Some of the ideas presented at the PS 114 meeting were speed bumps around schools, replenishment of the beachfront, fixing the boardwalk, reconfiguring Shore Front Parkway and buying computers for local schools.

The only restrictions on the ideas were that they had to be capital expenses rather than operating expenses and the projects had to cost more than $35,000 and less than $65,000.


Brian Heffernan facilitates one of the groups talking about local needs. Brian Heffernan facilitates one of the groups talking about local needs. The ideas flew and were recorded by the facilitators.

Some of those at the meeting volunteered to become delegates and to meet from November to January to discuss the ideas presented and to codify the ideas into solid plans.

In February, neighborhood assemblies are planned to present the ideas to the electorate and to get feedback.

In March or April, the community will vote for those plans it likes best.

Anybody 18 years or older who lives in the district will be eligible to vote.

The plan right now is to hold the voting on one day at several sites around the community.

Ulrich then will build the results into his capital budget requests for the following year and he says that he expects that most of the ideas will come to fruition.

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