April 4, 2016 By Christian Murray
More than 3,600 people turned out to vote last week in polling booths throughout Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City to determine how $1 million of City funds should be spent in the 26th Council District.
The total number of votes was nearly three times the 1,350 votes cast in 2015 when the concept of voting for projects to be funded—referred to as Participatory Budgeting—was introduced in the district.
Residents this year had a list of 21 projects to vote for; they could pick up to five they believe should be funded.
“We are thrilled with the numbers,” Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said.
Van Bramer credited the increased vote count to his office expanding the number of voting sites and hours that those sites were open.
He said voters will not have to wait too long before the winning projects are announced. They are expected to be released by the end of next week.
“Several schools got actively involved,” Van Bramer said, adding that many polling booths were located on school sites, where students aged 14 years or more were eligible to vote.
Many items on the ballot included upgrades and repairs to schools throughout the district.
These included $450,000 for repairs to the auditorium at Aviation High School in Long Island City and $300,000 for an upgrade to the auditorium to PS 166 in Long Island City. Tech upgrades at PS 150 in Sunnyside and the Academy for American Studies in Long Island City were on the ballot for a total of $210,000.
The 21 items on the ballot were determined by community members over the course of the past six months who originally got a list of hundreds of projects and whittled them down to what was on the ballot.
Many projects included upgrades to the grounds surrounding public housing complexes. There were three separate items for $300,000 each, with upgrades to the grounds at Ravenswood, Queensbridge and Woodside Houses respectively.
One ballot item included basketball court renovations at Queensbridge and Ravenwood totaling $350,000.
The most expensive items on the ballot included a $500,000 shade canopy for the Hunters Point South Park playground, as well as $500,000 for a playground upgrade at PS 112, which is located at 25-05 37th Ave., Long Island City.
Van Bramer, who allocated $500,000 of City funds last year on top of the $1 million on offer via the ballot, said he was going to add to the $1 million again for 2016.
“Given the great response, I’m 100 percent certain that we will go over the $1 million,” he said.