Local projects want your vote! $1M up for grabs | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Local projects want your vote! $1M up for grabs

Aidan Collins, 10, stepped into the role of point person for the proposal to renovate the P.S. 3 library — item No. 6 on the participatory budgeting ballot.  Photo by Zach Williams

Aidan Collins, 10, stepped into the role of point person for the proposal to renovate the P.S. 3 library — item No. 6 on the participatory budgeting ballot. Photo by Zach Williams

BY ZACH WILLIAMS  |  With voting time fast approaching, residents of the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen gathered at a March 24 “expo” to both learn about and weigh in on beautification, repair and upgrade projects set to appear on the “participatory budgeting” ballot.

From April 11-19, constituents will be able to vote on a total of 17 projects, with the top vote-getters receiving a cut of the $1 million allocated by Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office for the West Side’s District 3.

There was no clear frontrunner among the proposals presented at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, at 40 W. 20th St., which attracted about 100 potential voters.

This is the first time District 3 has taken part in participatory budgeting since it was established in 2011, as an option on how to spend discretionary funding distributed from the city’s capital budget. Currently, 24 districts are taking part.

Johnson told the expo crowd that he hopes several thousand people will vote. Anyone who lives Council District 3 and is at least 14 years old is eligible to participate.

“I don’t have all the answers and I shouldn’t be the only person in charge of determining what is important and what needs to be funded,” Johnson said of the participatory concept. “This is democratizing the budget process.”

There was no shortage of ideas in response. Parks, schools, streets, libraries, bus stops, composting and even public bathrooms were among the top topics.

Aidan Collins, 10, advocated for a plan for $100,000 to renovate bathrooms at P.S. 3, plus $35,000 to bring computers to the school, at 490 Hudson St. Boys’ bathrooms at the school lack mirrors, he added.

Across the room, Liam Buckley, 14, made the case for restroom renovations and a new public-address system at the Lab School, at 333 W. 17th St.

“The bathrooms are definitely dirty and outdated,” he said. “The floors are slanted. There’s urinals missing and there are no locks on the door. We hope this is the last time that we have to address this for years to come.”

The lowest proposal on the ballot is for $35,000 and the highest $560,000.

Some projects could receive funding even if they don’t win in the voting. What matters is that ideas with strong community support receive attention, Johnson said. He added that no final decisions have been made on how his office will spend an additional $4 million in discretionary funding that he controls.

Local transportation safety advocacy group Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety (CHEKPEDS) hopes some of the funding will be used to install a prototype of a raised pedestrian crossing at W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. The crossing would increase visibility for pedestrians and slow down traffic, plus maintain water drainage.  Estimates from the city put the project’s cost at $250,000.

Another transportation-minded proposal is for $200,000 to install countdown clocks for the M11 and M12 buses.

Patrick Shields, a South Village resident, wants a new artificial-turf soccer field in Fulton Houses on W. 17th St. However, he expressed concern about how the proposal’s cost was determined to be $500,000, a high price that he said could work against the project getting done.

“Whether it was purposely overbudgeted, I don’t know,” he said. “I hope not. But I’m going to assume not and lobby like crazy.”

Supporters of professional soccer will come out to campaign for support, he added. The site is the only spot available in District 3 able to accommodate such a youth sports field, according to Shields.

“It’s off the street,” he said. “It’s in between buildings. It’s sandwiched where they aren’t going to be running into the street chasing balls.”

Voters can support up to five projects. This could help second and third choices emerge victorious if voters are more split about their top choice. Marking just one or two choices on the ballot might help boost their chances, suggested Bill Borock, president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations.

Borock indicated his support for a proposal to fund demolition and an environmental impact study for a new park on W. 20th St. That effort has been ongoing for five years, said Pamela Wolff, a member of Chelsea’s West 200 Block Association.

“There’s some real stick-to-it-iveness among the people who very much have their hearts in it,” she said.

Another idea for local public spaces is revitalizing Chelsea Waterside Park. Not only would the installation of an interactive garden benefit local children, but the space also serves as an important physical link between the High Line and Hudson River Park, said Zazel Loven who is on the board for Chelsea Waterside Park.

With tens of thousands of potential voters, delegates said they would focus on mobilizing their own supporters through community groups, canvassing and phone-banking rather than knocking competing projects.

A workshop held the week before by Friends of the High Line helped project proponents gear up for the campaign, said Erycka Montoya, community engagement coordinator.

Undecided voters — including Johnson — said at the event that they will have to think more about the relative merits of each proposal before casting their ballots.

Voting will take place April 11-19, with different poll sites on different days. Text “VOTE” to 212-676-8384 for your closest poll site. Poll sites include: Councilmember Johnson’s District Office, 224 W. 30th St., Suite 1206, April 13-17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 1 Clarkson St. April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; The Fulton Houses Tenants Association Office, 419A W. 17th St.,

April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Hartley House, 413 W.46th St., April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Hudson Guild (Dan Carpenter Room, second floor), 441 W. 26th St., April 12 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; The LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., April 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Pop-up voting sites will also appear throughout the district. Text “PBNYC” to 212-676-8384 for more info.

The 16 proposals on the ballot include:

• A cooling system for Muhlenberg Library ($500,000). The library serves as an official city cooling center.

• Renovations for Jefferson Market Library ($500,000). Funding would go toward renovating the lobby bathroom to make it ADA-compliant.

• O. Henry Learning Campus renovations ($290,000). Hudson Guild, Lab High School, Lab Middle School and Museum School would benefit from new gym bleachers, gym scoreboard and locker room bathroom renovations.

• Bathroom Renovations at Lab School ($560,000). Two student bathrooms on each floor and bathrooms adjacent to the cafeteria would be renovated.

• P.S. 3 bathroom renovations ($100,000).

• P.S. 3 library renovations ($35,000). Library would be modernized to keep up with last decade’s technological advances.

• Public-address system upgrade at the Lab School ($500,000). Would also serve two other schools in the building.

• A new park at W. 20th St. ($200,000). Funds would pay for demolition of a former Department of Sanitation building and environmental study.

• Revitalization of Chelsea Waterside Park ($85,000). An interactive garden for local kids would be created, focusing on ethnobotany and native plants.

• Downing St. Playground upgrades ($200,000). New kids’ play equipment, plus a safer, more child-friendly drinking fountain to replace decrepit on there now.

• Community composting center ($35,000). A year-round solar-powered, forced-air composting system for residents of Hell’s Kitchen that would have at least two compost drop-off days per week.

• New soccer turf playing field at Fulton Houses ($500,000). Would include ball-strike safety fence or netting for neighboring window safety, marked field and durable, permanent mini-goals.

• Resurfacing toddler sprinklers at Fulton Houses ($345,000).

• Upgrading Fulton Houses basketball court ($425,000). Current court pavement requires leveling and drainage correction. Would include landscaping and new court markings.

• Raised crosswalks at W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. ($250,000). Installation of a “speed table” at the notoriously dangerous crosswalk.

• Bus time clocks  for the M11 and M12 ($200,000). Clocks would provide waiting passengers with bus-arrival times.

• Repair/replacement of badly beat-up pavement on W. 26th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves. ($50,000).