Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York City Council Launch 2015-2016 Participatory Budgeting Cycle

Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York City Council Members launched New York City’s 2015-2016 Participatory Budgeting cycle — the largest and fastest-growing Participatory Budgeting process in the United States.  This year, New Yorkers in 27 Council Districts will collaboratively decide how to distribute over $30 million to local capital projects through a year-long process of neighborhood assemblies, delegate meetings, project expositions, and community voting.

“The New York City Council is proud to lead the largest participatory budgeting process in North America, a truly grassroots and democratic tool that engages New Yorkers and invests in our communities. Participatory Budgeting enfranchises diverse New Yorkers — from immigrants with limited English proficiency, to young people, to lower-income workers —resulting in a civic dialogue that is truly inclusive. Last year, over 51,000 New Yorkers voted for locally-developed capital projects across the city, and we look forward to building on that resounding success in the upcoming 2015-2016 cycle. New York City’s Participatory Budgeting process is a model for empowered, community-based decision making across the country and around the world, and the City Council is proud to do its part to strengthen and innovate democracy,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Participatory Budgeting is a grassroots process through which community residents vote to directly allocate at least $1 million in capital funding per district toward proposals developed by the community to meet local needs.  Through a series of public meetings, residents work with elected officials throughout the year to identify neighborhood concerns and craft proposals to address them. Residents then decide which proposals to fund through a public vote.

Participatory Budgeting in New York City has expanded from four initial City Council districts in 2011 to 27 Council Districts for the 2015-2016 cycle. In 2014-2015, 51,000 New Yorkers voted to allocate $32 million dollars for locally-developed capital projects across 24 Council Districts in New York City.

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced the New York City Council the winner of the Roy and Lila Ash Innovations Award for Public Engagement in Government, for its efforts to “engage residents from communities most often left out of traditional methods of public engagement.”

 2015-2016 Participating Districts:


Andrew Cohen

(District 11, Bronx)

Costa Constantinides

(District 22, Queens)

Robert Cornegy

(District 36, Brooklyn)

Laurie Cumbo

(District 35, Brooklyn)

Elizabeth Crowley

(District 30, Queens)

Mathieu Eugene

(District 40, Brooklyn)

Julissa Ferreras

(District 21, Queens)

David Greenfield 

(District 44, Brooklyn)

Corey Johnson

(District 3, Manhattan)

Ben Kallos 

(District 5, Manhattan)

Karen Koslowitz

(District 29, Queens)

Brad Lander

(District 39, Brooklyn)

Steve Levin

(District 33, Brooklyn)

Mark Levine 

(District 7, Manhattan)

Melissa Mark-Viverito

(District 8, Manhattan/Bronx)

Carlos Menchaca

(District 38, Brooklyn)

Daneek Miller

(District 27, Queens)

Antonio Reynoso

(District 34, Brooklyn/Queens)

Donovan Richards

(District 31, Queens)

Ydanis Rodriguez

(District 10, Manhattan)

Helen Rosenthal

(District 6, Manhattan)

Ritchie Torres

(District 15, Bronx)

Mark Treyger

(District 47, Brooklyn)

Eric Ulrich

(District 32, Queens)

Paul Vallone

(District 19, Queens)

Jimmy Van Bramer

(District 26, Queens)

Jumaane Williams

(District 45, Brooklyn)

"Participatory budgeting has grown an enormous amount in just 4 years, and I'm incredibly excited to be heading into our 5th and biggest year yet of PBNYC," said Council Member Brad Lander. “Thanks to Speaker Mark-Viverito, and to my 27 other colleagues who have committed to PB in such a big way. When a few of us first started this experiment four years ago we had no idea it would grow into the grass roots, community driven powerhouse of a process it is today. We've now seen PBNYC get thousands of previously disenfranchised New Yorkers involved in the political process and respond to critical needs in the community that were passing by without attention year after year. PBNYC gives so many New Yorkers the opportunity to get involved in government in a meaningful way, and helps develop a sense of shared responsibility and stewardship for the neighborhood. I've had four excellent years of funding thoughtful and often over-looked projects in my district in year's past, and I can't wait to see what my district votes for this cycle!”

"PBNYC is a powerful democratic tool that addresses real needs in our communities. It allows for greater transparency and nurtures a sense of social responsibility. The process was a great success in my district last year, and my constituents are looking forward to taking the reins of our budget again,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras.

“Participatory Budgeting empower New Yorkers giving them the ability to decide where their tax dollars are spent,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “In Western Queens are giving the residents of the 26th District the ability to fund projects that are meaningful and will make a difference in their communities. The growth of this inclusive process is helping build a better informed, and empowered citizenry which is making our City’s democracy stronger.”

"Participatory Budgeting has shifted the conversation, and has transformed the way we do government in our City. In communities all over New York City, residents expect a new framework of engagement with local government because of what PB has inspired. We've seen what we've known all along--residents know what they want, and what they need. I am encouraged that in this next cycle, we will continue to shape this process in a way that activates even more people to connect to government, and to their communities in a meaningful way," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

We're excited to participate in the Participatory Budgeting process again, particularly given how fruitful the first year proved to be. We saw diverse and intelligent choices made in the selection of capital projects and our district in Southeast Queens organized around them," said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. "We're looking forward to even bigger and better things in the upcoming round."

 “Participatory Budgeting is a great project because it gets the community involved in the democratic process,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.

 “This is a great chance for residents to get involved in their government and help determine how their tax dollars are reinvested back in our neighborhood. I am very excited to begin this year’s process and to hear more great ideas to improve our community at the upcoming assemblies. I am especially excited as a former civics teacher to give residents of all ages a unique opportunity to become engaged and active in their community. This process relies on the public’s participation and input, so I urge residents to take part and share your ideas over the coming weeks,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.

“Participatory Budgeting is democracy in action” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “It is an opportunity for residents to have an active role in improving their neighborhoods, from identifying worthwhile projects in their communities to seeing those ideas funded through a community vote. This past year we had an outstanding turnout, both in my district and citywide, and I look forward to building off that momentum and engaging more New Yorkers in this democratic process in the 2015-2016 cycle. I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her role in expanding Participatory Budgeting across New York.”

  "When leaders invest power in their communities, everyone wins," said Josh Lerner, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. "Participatory budgeting brings new voices into civic life, and PBNYC shows that more voices leads to better decisions and stronger communities. As we bring participatory budgeting to new budgets across North America, PBNYC serves as a shining model and a laboratory of experimentation for deepening democracy.”

 "I am excited that the people of District 45 continue to show their support for participatory budgeting, and look forward to a fifth successful year," said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. "PB has been an empowering form of open democracy which has not only gained momentum within our own neighborhood, but has continued to expand citywide. For the past four years, PB has served as a great tool to build up school infrastructures and fund capital projects District 45 constituents find most important. As we enter this new cycle, I look forward to seeing more people getting involved so that these projects continue to improve our community in very real ways."

 “Participatory Budgeting has allowed residents in my Council district to share ideas on how to improve their neighborhood. This process gives everyone an opportunity to be hands on in regards to budgeting and proves that our communities are stronger when we work together,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

 “PB gives the power back to the people who know the district the best. I am proud to take part in the participatory budgeting which reinforces the relationship between elected officials and the communities that we serve,” said Council Member David Greenfield.

 “Participatory budgeting is an incredible opportunity to engage and empower people of all backgrounds in a Democratic process to collectively decide how we can spend $1 million to fund capital projects that will strengthen our community. It is a renewal of the belief that everyday people possess the authority to create real change in their own community,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “This is an exciting time for the diverse voices of the 35th Council District to allocate real money towards real projects as a reflection of real power. The success of this endeavor relies on the full participation of our youth, seniors, and families.”   

 “Our research on Participatory Budgeting in New York City has shown that with targeted outreach, dedicated resources and a commitment to inclusivity, the PB process can and does engage diverse New Yorkers, many of whom are disenfranchised or marginalized from traditional political processes.  For example, last cycle (2014-15), nearly a quarter of those who voted for a PB project reported they could not vote in regular elections.  These community members work together with others in new ways, and are given the opportunity to exercise real decision making power over how public funds are spent.   As the process continues to expand we look forward to seeing this community-driven civic engagement opportunity made available to an increasing number of New Yorkers,” said Erin Markman, Research and Policy Coordinator, Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center.

 “I’m very excited as we begin the new Participatory Budgeting cycle,” said Council Member Vallone. “Participatory budgeting is a great way to get the pulse of the community and see what everyone believes city dollars and resources should be spent on. Last year’s successful cycle, which garnered thousands of votes, shows the power and importance of this grassroots fueled process and I look forward to another great year.”

 “Last year was the first year for PB in the 34th District, and it was great to see so many residents get involved and excited about making positive changes in their community.  I am really looking forward to starting round two, hearing more ideas, and funding more projects that help realize my community members’ vision for where they live,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

 "It's amazing to see Participatory Budgeting expand from our 4-district, $4 million pilot to 27 Council Districts and $35 million in just four years!  Community Voices Heard is excited to have played a key role in getting PB off the ground in NYC and then helping to institutionalize it within the City Council.  We applaud the Speaker and participating Council Members for their commitment to the process and for changing how governance is done in NYC.  Now it's up to the community to get involved and take advantage of the opportunity and engage!  CVH's looks forward to continuing to play our part in ensuring that the broad diversity of NYC is represented in this process,” said Sondra Youdelman, Executive Director, Community Voices Heard.

 “After four cycles of Participatory Budgeting it’s clear that residents of my district are enthusiastic about this opportunity for grassroots engagement and won’t be running out of great project ideas any time soon. It has been an inspiring experience to see New Yorkers coming together to share their needs, aspirations and ideas and make decisions about how their government can better serve and invest in their communities. I am proud to increase my capital commitment to $1,500,000 for this cycle and I look forward to another year’s worth of exciting projects,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

 “Last year over 2,000 residents voted in the Upper West Side’s inaugural year of Participatory Budgeting.  I look forward to starting a new round of PB and engaging even more residents on how to spend their taxpayer money,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

 “Every member of our community deserves the opportunity to speak out and express their vision for our future. By allowing every member of our community, regardless of citizenship status or income, to vote in participatory budgeting we are empowering every member of our community to invest in our future. In order to better our school systems, make our streets safer, incentivize environmentally friendly habits, we must have every member of our community buy into, engage with, and work towards that vision," said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. "With participatory budgeting, we give power to residents to develop, propose and implement the real community concerns they have yearned for."

 “Participatory Budgeting gives our communities a direct say on how the City spends public dollars and provides Council offices with an incredible tool for building relationships and engaging a broad range of constituents,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “I look forward to bringing PB back to Council District 15 for a second year and giving residents the opportunity to shape their neighborhoods through a truly democratic process.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “I am excited to bring Participatory Budgeting back to our district.  The volunteer-driven program provides an extraordinary opportunity for all our residents to have a voice in our city’s budget process.  The process is inclusive and brings our community together.  We are especially proud to allocate even more funding for this cycle to make it more engaging.  I look forward to working with our neighborhood as we move forward with Participatory Budgeting activities.”

 "I'm excited to take part in Participatory Budgeting for the third time. Offering constituents a chance to spend $1 million on projects they themselves choose is a rare opportunity I'm glad to take part in. We're holding Participatory Budgeting assemblies now, and look forward to seeing which projects will be put up for a vote,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

"Participatory Budgeting gives residents a chance to directly decide how to spend money to improve the district. Everyone has a chance to raise his or her voice and be an advocate for important projects," said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. "It's a pleasure to join the Participatory Budgeting process and I look forward to this community journey." 

 “I am thrilled to be partaking in Participatory Budgeting for the 2015-2016 budget cycle.  This innovative process will give my neighbors a direct voice in how their tax dollars are spent on projects that will address community needs.  It is my hope that through this process, we will be able to give City residents more confidence in government and increase civic engagement.  The more participation and higher turnout we have will ensure that our communities will benefit in the long run.  I am looking forward hearing all of the terrific ideas that my neighbors will propose,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

 “I'm happy to fully embrace PB, which provides residents of my district with new opportunities to speak out and take leadership on issues they're passionate about. The sharing and learning that is happening in every direction is so exciting,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy.

 “Participatory budgeting empowers local communities and strengthens the relationship between elected officials and the people they serve,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “I’m looking forward to this coming PB cycle and the new, exciting community projects it will bring.”

 “Participatory Budgeting is an inclusive process that engages people from all walks of life to become involved in decisions that impact their neighborhoods. It's an example of the kind of civic participation we need to create the transparent government we seek. For a second year in a row, I am excited to give my neighbors in the 7th District the chance to weigh in on how to spend $1 million of their own tax dollars," said Council Member Mark Levine.

 “Participatory Budgeting is civic engagement at its finest,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “We have had two great years in a row in District 31 and I can’t wait to see what the Rockaway community comes up with next to help improve our neighborhood. I am also excited that the minimum age has been lowered to 12, so we can begin engaging students at an even younger age.”


 2015-2016 Timeline:

 Neighborhood Assemblies: September - October 2015
At public meetings in each district, community members learn about PB and discuss their community’s needs. They then brainstorm project ideas and select budget delegates.

Delegate Orientations: October 2015

Volunteer budget delegates learn about the budget process, project development, and key spending areas, then form committees. 

Delegate Meetings: October 2014 - December 2015

Delegates meet in committees to transform the community’s initial project ideas into full proposals, with support from Council Member staff and other experts. 

Project Expos: February-March 2015

Delegates present draft project proposals to the community and get feedback, with which they revise the projects. 

Community Vote: March 2015

Residents vote on which projects to fund at voting sites throughout the district. 

Implementation & Monitoring: April 2015 onwards

The Council Members submit their spending priorities to the City Council’s Finance Division, including the winning PB projects, for inclusion in the City budget. Community members evaluate the process, and oversee the implementation of projects. 

In the 2014-2015 Participatory Budgeting cycle, approximately one in five ballots were cast in a language other than English. According to findings from the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, of Participatory Budgeting voters surveyed:

  • Nearly 60% identified as people of color
  • Approximately one in ten were under 18
  • Nearly 30% reported an annual household income of $25,000 or below
  • More than a quarter were born outside of the U.S.
  • Nearly a quarter reported a barrier to voting in regular elections, with one in ten reporting they were not U.S. citizens
  • 63% identified as female
  • Nearly 20% had a high school diploma or less (of those 25 years old or older)

 Voting in Participatory Budgeting is open to all residents of participating districts 14  years of age and older. Some districts may decide to lower the voting age to allow people under the age of 14 to vote.. The sole identification requirement is proof of residency in the district, removing traditional obstacles to full civic participation, such as youth, income status, English-language proficiency and documentation status.