Participatory budgeting lets voters decide how $1M is spent
Participatory budgeting lets voters decide how $1M is spent/EnvatoElements

How Should the City Spend $1,000,000? Upper East Siders Get to Choose

MANHATTAN – Upper East Siders have a chance to decide how the city will spend $1,000,000 in taxpayer money. Through Sunday, April 10th, UES residents get to choose which improvement projects in the neighborhood should get hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, allocated by City Council Member Julie Menin.

The process is called ‘participatory budgeting’ and it allows the public to participate in the budgeting process by voting for the projects they want to see funded in District 5, which Menin represents.

“I have been a longtime proponent of Participatory Budgeting since I’ve served on the Board of Citizens Union,” said Council Member Julie Menin.

“Civil engagement is so important to improve our district, because we can ensure that our community has a voice in these important budgeting decisions,” Menin added.

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Nine projects have made the final cut— out of a total of forty proposals—  focusing on upgrades to schools, parks, libraries and public safety— though some projects are narrowly focused and would only impact a small number of members of the community. 

Here are the finalists Upper East Siders can vote on:

Four NYPD Surveillance Cameras, $162,000

  • The cameras would be installed in locations chosen by the NYPD. It’s not clear why each camera carries a price tag of more than $40,000, but the cost is in-line with prior spending on surveillance cameras by the NYPD.

Kitchen Renovations for FDNY, $150,000

  • This is actually a $1.2 million dollar project and $150,000 would only be spent on its first phase— planning for kitchen renovations at the Engine 22/Ladder 13 firehouse on East 85th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues.
  • Appliances would cost an additional $120,000
  • Materials are quoted to cost $600,000 more— and include fiber optics, counters, wood, flooring and cabinets. It’s not clear why fiber optics are needed in a kitchen or what grade of materials would be used for the staggering cost.
  • Labor for the project is priced at an extra $350,000
  • Participatory budgeting would only fund the planning stage.
FDNY Engine 22/Ladder 13 Firehouse on East 85th Street/Upper East Site
FDNY Engine 22/Ladder 13 Firehouse on East 85th Street/Upper East Site

Technology Upgrades at Public Libraries, $250,000

  • Funding would pay for new desktop computers, laptops, printers, and wifi and networking equipment at the Webster Library on York Avenue and the 67th Street Library. 
  • The Roosevelt Island Library would also get upgrades, as it sits within District 5

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Pathway Repaving, $300,000

– Ten thousand square feet of pathways inside Carl Schurz Park would be repaved with the funding, providing a major upgrade from the broken pavement and patchwork found on some paths in the park.

Project would repave 10,000 square feet of pathways in Carl Schurz Park/Upper East Site
Project would repave 10,000 square feet of pathways in Carl Schurz Park/Upper East Site

Street Tree Guard Installation, $113,000

  • Fifty newly-planted trees around the Upper East Side would receive upgraded protection in the form of metal guards that can shield the tree from damage and prevent dogs from using the tree to relieve themselves. 

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Schoolyard Resurfacing, $380,000

  • Slippery, dirty, dilapidated outdoor mats MS 114 and PS 138 on East 91st Street would be replaced under this project. 
Kids hands left dirty after playing on dilapidated mats at MS 114
Kids hands left dirty after playing on dilapidated mats at MS 114/Council Member Menin’s office
  • MS114’s principal says the schoolyard has drainage issues and the slick and buckled surface limits school activities and gets students dirty.
  • Upper East Site has asked for a breakdown of the costs for this proposal from the School Construction Authority but has not heard back.
MS 114/PS 138 would receive new outdoor mats for the schoolyard/Upper East Site
MS 114/PS 138 would receive new outdoor mats for the schoolyard/Upper East Site

School Water Bottle Filling Stations, $64,000

– PS 151, also known as Yorkville Community School, would use get eight new water bottle filling stations spread across the school’s five floors. Upper East Site has inquired about the price tag for this project and is waiting to hear back fro the School Construction Authority.

Yorkville Community School on East 88th Street would receive new water bottle filling stations/Upper East Site
Yorkville Community School on East 88th Street would receive new water bottle filling stations/Upper East Site

School Surveillance Cameras, $550,000

  • More than half a million dollars would pay for surveillance cameras to be installed throughout the campus of PS 183 on East 66th Street. 
  • Upper East Site has asked the School Construction Authority for the itemized costs of this pricey project.

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School Bathroom Renovations, $225,000

  • The project at MS 177 would renovate one faculty and one student bathroom, both described by Council Member Menin’s office as being in a general state of disrepair. 
  • The upgrade would replace sinks, faucets, toilets, soap dispensers, mirrors, tile floors, stalls, paper towel dispensers and urinals.
  • It is not clear whether the bathrooms are currently in use.
  • Upper East Site has requested more details on the costs of the project and is waiting to hear back.

Voting is open through Sunday, April 10th to District 5 residents who are at least 11 years old. 

Multiple projects will be selected until the $1 million available has been allocated and the winners be announced later this month.

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