By Victoria Merlino
More water bottle refilling stations, bus countdown clocks and classroom upgrades will be coming to the residents of western Queens thanks to participatory budgeting, Councilmember Costa Constantinides announced on Monday following a short voting period in early April.
Participatory budgeting enables residents to vote directly on what projects they would like to see funded by the City Council and completed in their districts. In District 22, which includes Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside, residents were able to fund $1 million worth of projects to improve the district, to be implemented in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
Five projects received funding after district residents cast 2,500 votes. The projects include water bottle refilling stations to replace existing drinking fountains at all district elementary schools, updated high-speed Wi-Fi at The Young Women’s Leadership School, electrical upgrades to 11 classrooms in P.S. 70 so that they may support window air conditioners, more money toward the renovation of the Astoria branch of the Queens Library and more bus countdown clocks throughout the district.
“Participatory Budgeting is truly government for the people, by the people,” Constantinides said in a statement. “This year we again saw thousands of residents give a say on how they want $1 million to be spent. What you see are the result of a dedicated community that wants to improve the lives of all those who live in western Queens. Thanks to all our volunteers who working polling stations throughout the district, as well as all those who cast a ballot.”
Suggestions for participatory budgeting projects were created at neighborhood assemblies by residents last fall. Suggestions that did not pass the voting process included resurfacing the handball courts at Hoyt and Woodtree playgrounds, construction of a new picnic area at Ralph DeMarco Park and upgrading the HVAC system at the Astoria library branch.