How the East Side is Spending $1 Million Op-Ed

| 11 May 2015 | 06:51

    One million dollars of city funds were recently distributed through participatory budgeting, a process through which residents vote on where taxpayer dollars should go. Over the course of 10 days, 2,140 residents turned out to vote 6,963 times on 16 projects selected by members of the community.

    I am pleased to announce the top vote getters for the $1 million: PS/IS 217 and PS 151 for green roofs on their schools.

    These projects uniquely mobilized the community in support, bringing many more New Yorkers into the budget process. Participatory budgeting—now occurring in two dozen Council Districts—has taken the budget out of the backrooms and into the community. Our winners represent what is best and most inclusive about participatory budgeting.

    PS 151 worked with the PTA, the school community and students’ neighbors, while PS/IS 217 mobilized much of the Roosevelt Island community, including Girl Scout troops 3001 and 3244.

    Both Principals, Samantha Kaplan and Mandana Beckman, acknowledged that it would take multiple years to complete the projects, but expressed joy at the big difference the play spaces will make for their students.

    To learn more about the results, including the total votes for each project as well as paper ballot results by project and poll site, please visit

    This fall, the process will start over again. We will begin with assemblies to spread the word, recruit delegates and come up with projects as a community. The delegates will be in charge of working with our office to determine what will be voted on. Then, we will hold an expo to share the projects on the ballot with our neighbors. Voting will take place in the spring, and we hope to get thousands of members of the community out to vote again.

    If you are interested in becoming a delegate next year or simply becoming more engaged in the process, please contact 212-860-1950 or

    Though it is my honor to congratulate the winners, I also want to congratulate the community on selecting our worthy winners, as well as choosing other wonderful projects to be put on the ballot. Our process has underscored to me that when the community comes together, we make decisions for the good of our neighborhoods and cooperate to achieve results.

    Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side on the New York City Council