Participatory Budgeting in New York City

„Participatory Budgeting empowers local residents to get involved in their communities and decide how public dollars are spent to strengthen our neighborhoods. I thank everyone who has contributed to this process.“

Adrienne Adams, New York City Council Speaker

Participatory Budgeting in New York City

in numbers

58 829



districts involved

$30 million 



PBNYC is one of the largest and oldest participatory budgeting processes in North America, organized by the New York City Council. The project started in 2011. Over the years, the process has grown to include a majority of Council Members, giving communities real decision-making over more than $30 million ($1 million per district) in taxpayer money on an annual basis.

PBNYC plays an important role in giving communities the ability to directly impact the capital budgeting process. It motivates New Yorkers to engage in civic life and make decisions by sharing ideas, developing proposals, and voting on community projects. Our partnership with NYC Council began in 2016, and each year, more districts decide to join the project.

Residents from participating districts can submit proposals online through our idea submission map and engage with their community. Selected proposals make it to the ballots, and residents decide on the projects to be implemented. Each district has its own set of ballots, surveys, and language options, and we create both digital and paper formats for them to use. The PBNYC realization team centrally organizes the counting process. Thanks to our machine-reading solution, paper ballots are easily counted and stored digitally. We can deliver complete results, complementary data, and voter insights within three days.

Real Money. Real Projects. Real People

That is the slogan of Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) for 2023. Millions of New Yorkers across the boroughs of Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn had the opportunity to propose community projects and decide how to use $30 million, which the City Hall had set aside for participation. Finances were divided among the individual city districts that participated in the project. In each of them, people decided on the use of $1 million. The money will go towards improving local schools, parks, public libraries, social housing, streets and other public spaces. The PBNYC project funds physical infrastructure projects that benefit the public, cost at least $50,000, and have a lifespan of at least 5 years. In terms of finances and scope, this is the largest participatory budget in US history!

Voting pop-up booth on the Upper West Side, Manhattan. Photo: Petr Lebeda

Participatory budgeting has been organized by the New York City Council since 2011, cooperation with Decision 21 started in 2016. Participation allows residents to directly influence the process of distributing public finances and thus participate in the running of the city. It motivates New Yorkers to meet and engage in civic life, share ideas and vote on community projects.

New York is a melting-pot and the most populous city in the USA, therefore participation has a much greater overlap. It serves as a tool for inclusion and helps to involve all the communities that live in the city in the local government.

„Participatory budgeting empowers local people to get involved in their communities and make decisions about how public dollars are spent to strengthen our neighborhoods. I thank everyone who contributed to this process and encourage all eligible New Yorkers to vote for their top projects," said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams in her speech.

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. Photo: Petr Lebeda

The whole process of 12th PBNYC cycle began in the fall of 2022, when New Yorkers created and submitted ideas to improve their neighborhoods. They discussed the proposals at public meetings with participation delegates. After that, with the support of city agencies and city hall employees, they evaluated the ideas and created concrete project proposals.

All citizens over the age of 11 could propose projects and vote on them, regardless of citizenship. Proposing and voting took place within individual city districts. Projects that received the most votes during the nine-day Vote Week get implemented.

Online voting and paper ballots

After the collection of proposals from the New York residents began the voting phase, on which we worked intensively with the City Council. From Saturday, March 25 to Sunday, April 2, 2023, New Yorkers over the age of 11 could vote for their favorite projects online on the Decision 21 platform, or in person at dozens of voting pop-up locations throughout New York - in parks, schools, libraries, and the offices of individual Council Members. Thanks to the D21 voting method, people could choose more projects on the ballot they would like to implement.

„I just used Decision 21 to vote on community projects for climate resilience in Brooklyn NY! It was easy and secure to participate in local decision making from home! I appreciate the work you are doing to increase democratic participation! Thank you!!!!!” Jennifer, NYC resident

Online voting on the Decision 21 platform. Photo: Petr Lebeda

Online voting was complemented by paper ballots, which we created in 22 language versions: English, Spanish, but also Bengali, Yiddish or Creole. Voting took place separately in each of the 29 city districts. In Manhattan's Upper East Side, they had completely different ballots with different projects than, for example, in the Bronx.

We created ballots in 22 language variants. Photo: Petr Lebeda

After the end of the voting we scanned all paper ballots, which were thanks to our special machine-reading solution automatically added to the results of the online voting. „This reduced the error rate and saved New York City Council staff weeks of work. From the original several weeks when ballots were counted manually in the past, we processed them within 3 days. Compared to previous years, we have also improved the system for recognizing scanned ballots," explains Decision 21 project manager Dominik Jandl.

Scanning of paper ballots. Photo: Petr Lebeda


Among the winning projects across the boroughs this year dominated improving equipment in New York City schools. For example, public schools in Brooklyn can look forward to new laptops, an improved school playground or the reconstruction of social facilities. Students in the Bronx will get new air conditioning in the sports hall and a hydroponic science lab. Very popular are also green projects which goal is to improve city parks or plant trees in the streets. In Manhattan, people voted for a new community garden and "greening" of the streets, in Queens they will repair water fountains at the request of residents. Proposals for the construction and reconstruction of outdoor sports fields and playgrounds are also trendy. „From school upgrades, to street trees, to security cameras. Regardless of which project wins, it will have a lasting positive impact on our community," said City Council member Sandy Nurse.

In 2023, we also cooperated with The NYC Civic Engagement Commission on the first-ever citywide participatory budgeting. You can find out more about the project here.

You can read more about the Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) here.

Photo: Petr Lebeda

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