2014-03-14 / Top Stories

District 31 Participatory Budget Expo

By Miriam Rosenberg

How to spend $1 million in the community? That has been the question facing residents of City Council District 31 the last few months. On March 6th several projects were presented to the community.

The Participatory Budget Expo, at Far Rockaway High School, was the culmination of months of meetings and factfinding missions by various committees.

Ideas ranged from boat houses, outdoor kitchens, upgrades for the Far Rockaway Educational Campus, park improvements, cameras in various locations in the district, helping the music program and/or adding a new tech lab also at PS 43.

“I am really impressed by all the work that went into this,” Councilman Donovan Richards said. “I think there’s a lot of great ideas that we could incorporate into this community to move this community forward…. I look forward to seeing that these projects are funded, whatever the community chooses to vote on.”

A vote for funding will take place sometime next month. The following proposals have been submitted:

The Rockaway Youth Task Force has been provided a piece of land from the Parks Department across from Nordeck Houses on Beach 58th Street. Their vision for that land includes a boat house and outdoor kitchen. The cost of the project would be between $40,000 and $50,000. “It’s right off the water and a lot of times we live right next to the water but we don’t really get to experience the water,” Milan Taylor, president of the RYTF, said. “We’re going to get canoes and we’re going to teach young people in the community how to go into the water, how to use canoes.”

The second project for RYTF would be an outdoor kitchen where Taylor said, “We can teach people in the community how to eat healthy through the vegetables and fruits that are growing here on the property.”

The Parks Committee proposed several ideas, many of which exceeded $1 million. Parks proposed a synthetic soccer field, improved parking areas, tennis courts, a boathouse and picnic area.

Ideas for Far Rockaway Educational Campus (aka Far Rockaway High School) include gym renovations and new scoreboards. They also would like to upgrade tech in the library by adding printers, a laptop cart, and smartboards. The library is a space shared by the five schools on the campus. The upgrade would enable students to use the tech for homework, printouts and much more.

The Environmental/Safety Committee proposed Argus Cameras in five areas in the district. “We considered areas where there’s high crime, where we have registered sex offenders, where we have schools, where we have businesses,” said Selvena Brooks.

MS 43 band director Steve Souza explained that eight years ago the band at PS 43 had nine students. Now the school band has almost 150 students. With band being a class and no longer a club almost 50 percent of the school is enrolled in the band. But they have to share the instruments and cannot take them home to practice. For $35,000 every student in the school can have his/her own instrument. In addition the east end can finally be represented by a marching band.

“I think it’s a real shame that the Rockaway community has all these parades but [Far Rockaway] is not represented by a marching band,” said Souza.

Voting on the projects in the Participatory Budget for District 31 will take place during the first week of April. Locations are to be announced. For more information contact Councilmember Richards’ office.

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