Participatory budgeting coming to District 30 1

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley announced to Community Board 5 last week that she will be bringing participatory budgeting to District 30 in the fall.

Residents of Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale and northwestern Woodhaven will have their choice of where $1 million in City Council dollars will be allocated come next budget cycle.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) announced at Community Board 5’s monthly meeting last Wednesday that she will bring participatory budgeting to District 30 in the fall, joining 24 other members of the City Council who utilized the process last cycle.

Crowley was one of five Queens representatives — along with Councilmembers Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica) — who sat out of the most recent participatory budgeting process, which began in October 2014 and ended in April.

The second-term elected, responding to calls for improvements at the degraded Rosemary’s Playground in Ridgewood, said such a project could be one of many area residents decide to allocate funds toward.

“This year ... I plan to bring it to communities throughout the 30th Council District,” Crowley told CB 5. “The idea earlier about Rosemary’s Playground, that would be a good example.”

Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said in a phone interview on Tuesday that while participatory budgeting is a good idea in theory, he feels it weakens community boards and their advisory role in the city budgeting process.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Arcuri said. “We establish programs and projects for the budget, we advocate for the budget. It’s a nice idea but we lose strength.”

He did, however, applaud the bond formed between the elected official and his or her constituents during the participatory budgeting process.

“That sounds good, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I do like having the electorate get closer with their elected official.”

Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden said he was excited to see participatory budgeting come to the district, if only for the reason that it takes the task of allocating $1 million out of the councilwoman’s hands.

“The participatory budgeting process has to be far better than Elizabeth Crowley’s current patronage budgeting,” Holden said. “I certainly trust residents more to select priorities than Crowley’s current political process.”

Holden added that instead of fixing up Juniper Park’s often-flooded baseball and softball fields, $850,000 was put toward the substandard renovation of the green space’s bocce courts in 2013, which some players said left the venue in worse shape than it was in before.

“There were so many more projects that needed capital funding in Juniper Valley Park before the bocce courts,” he said, “such as the softball field play area, children’s sprinkler, tennis courts and clay baseball fields.”

Holden said the projects that could use some of the available $1 million include capital improvements to reduce congestion along Metropolitan Avenue and drainage systems underneath the Juniper Park ball fields.

When it comes to the southernmost portion of Crowley’s district, former Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association President Ed Wendell said on Tuesday that he doesn’t expect any conflicts between residents of the small Woodhaven section and those in Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood over which projects should be funded.

“I’m sure some things will have to be worked out but it’s great that it’s finally coming to the area,” Wendell said. “We’re hoping the delegates will put together a ballot that’s fair to every community.”

“All in all, it’s a worthy exercise and we’re not going to worry about our numbers and chances to win,” he added. “We certainly would never see it as a competition as us being pitted against Glendale or whomever.”

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