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Queens Chronicle

Koslowitz, Reynoso eye participatory budgeting

Council districts 29 and 34 to vote on how $1 million will be allotted

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Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 10:30 am

Come budget season this fall, Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens) will be kicking their feet up and allowing constituents to do at least a portion of their work for them.

The two lawmakers have announced they will be introducing participatory budgeting into their districts in the 2014-15 budget cycle, with residents getting the chance to brainstorm and vote for how $1 million in funds will be allocated in the area.

Koslowitz, who represents Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and a section of Richmond Hill, said it’s an idea that has been successful in other parts of the city and she was interested in seeing if that success would translate in her district.

“I’m always open to having district input. I always get my information from the district,” Koslowitz said. “I wanted to see how it works out and people are pretty excited about it.”

Christina Prince, the councilwoman’s director of community affairs, said a number of neighborhood assemblies, which will serve as brainstorming sessions where ideas in their early stages are presented, have already been scheduled.

The first session is scheduled for Sept. 8 at the American Legion Hall at 107-15 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, with assemblies planned for the community room inside the Rego Center mall in Rego Park on Sept. 15 and Russell Sage Junior High School in Forest Hills on Sept. 17.

Meetings will continue into October, with a Richmond Hill gathering at an undetermined location planned for Oct. 20.

“The idea of the meetings are to have people come in, we give a short presentation on participatory budgeting and the projects we can have and after that, we say ‘OK, what issues do we have?’” Prince said. “You don’t even have to live in District 29 to propose an idea either.”

In late fall, those interested in moving forward with their ideas will meet with the councilwoman’s staff to facilitate discussions with city agencies and nail down how much a project would cost.

Early next year, project expos will be held, where more informed funding pitches will be made to the community and voting, which is open to district residents 16 or older, will begin in April.

Koslowitz said that if the process goes smoothly and it proves popular among residents, she “absolutely” thinks participatory budgeting will remain in her district.

“This way, the constituents feel they’re a part of things,” she said.

Reynoso was not available for comment when contacted by the Chronicle, but the councilman, who represents the western portion of Ridgewood, held an information session on participatory budgeting on Aug. 13 and expressed his excitement for the process in a press release issued by the city on July 23.

“I am excited to bring participatory budgeting to the 34th District this year,” Reynoso said. “My community is very creative, and I’ve heard lots of great ideas from my constituents already. I am looking forward to seeing how they decide to spend a million dollars.”

A spokesman for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who represents the rest of Ridgewood, said participatory budgeting for District 30 in the 2015-16 fiscal year is something she is considering, but she has yet to make a final decision on the matter.

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