„Participatory Budgeting strengthens our democracy and deepens civic engagement. From funding arts programs to expanding food access support, this is a great way for New Yorkers to invest directly in their communities.“
Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City
The People's Money
After almost two decades of participatory budgets organized by the city's Districts themselves with the support of the City Council (see PBNYC project), the New York Mayor's office is coming up with a first ever citywide participatory budget. In 2022, The People's Money project was created and led by the NYC Civic Engagement Commission.
We have been working with New York City on engaging people in decision-making for several years. The current NYC Mayor, Eric Adams, decided to expand participation to the whole New York City. In addition to the city's Districts covered by PBNYC, The People's Money is adding borough-wide participation to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
The People's Money project also reflects on the past years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically impacted New York City same as the whole world. The Mayor's office allocated a portion of the total budget ($5 million) to the TRIE neighborhoods which were hit the hardest by the pandemic. Among other ways, the New York City mayor's administration tries to support these neighborhoods through participatory projects.
Preparations for The People's Money's first citywide budget began in November 2022. The project consisted of 4 phases:
Organizations that wanted to participate in the improvement of the City participated in project proposals. Of the 280 organizations that expressed interest, the City selected 82. Their topics included youth, libraries, public housing, accessibility, and the arts.
New Yorkers were able to attend a total of 523 idea-gathering sessions that the selected organizations co-hosted with the City. Over two months, more than 12,000 New Yorkers participated in the design process and developed more than 4,000 ideas for improving the TRIE neighborhoods and boroughs.
Between December 2022 and February 2023 the recieved proposals were evaluated by a committee of 20 representative resident volunteers who applied online. During this three months, the committees met several times to discuss and assess the projects going forward to the public vote. The City Hall selected eight representatives from local key partner organizations for each TRIE neighborhood. These could be, for example, the community council, a local school, or a tenants' association. For both types of the ballot (TRIE neighborhoods and boroughs), the City set out the main criteria for consideration:
We have set up voting online on the Decision 21 platform and also created paper ballots. All New Yorkers over 11, regardless of citizenship status, were eligible to vote from May 12 to June 25, 2023. People within the boroughs cast 110,371 ballots (25,339 online and 85,032 paper ballots). For the TRIE neighborhoods, we counted 97,873 ballots (13,584 online and 84,289 paper).
For each TRIE neighborhood, the ballot contained 3-5 projects, with the one with the most votes receiving $50,000 for implementation. As for the city districts, their residents could choose from the following options:
All New Yorkers over the age of 11 could vote, regardless of citizenship. Participation is based on the belief that if someone lives in a given place, they should have the opportunity to co-create public space. Each New Yorker could thus comment on projects in his borough (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island), and residents of THREE areas also had a ballot for their borough. Voters also had the opportunity to fill out an optional questionnaire. Online voting as well as paper ballots and questionnaires were translated into 22 language mutations - English, Spanish and other languages that are most commonly spoken in the given locations.
Paper ballots were distributed by the New York City Hall staff to local partner organizations and institutions, where people could vote during the election month. People could thus vote at dozens of voting places throughout the city - at non-profit organizations, in schools, libraries or even convenience stores.
In online voting, we programmed the so-called Ballot Finder. On the initial page, all you had to do was enter your zip code and the system automatically evaluated which ballots applied to particular resident. The voter only had to choose the preferred language.
The ballots were as diverse as the city itself. We provided ballots "tailored" to each voter with a possible combination:
The whole project The People's Money, including the voting phase, was accompanied by a promo campaign. Its goal was to inform the residents of New York about the existence of the project, its goals and to motivate them to participate.
Local artists also participated in the promotion. The Town Hall drew attention to the project through social networks, the website, posters and billboards in the streets, as well as street celebrations and an allegorical car.
The results of the citywide participatory budgeting are presented by members of the NYC Civic Engagement Commission in the following video.
Detailed results can also be found here.
One of the largest and oldest participatory budgeting processes in North America, organized by the New York City Council. Since 2011, the process has grown to include a majority of Districts, giving communities real decision-making over more than $30 million on an annual basis.
As a small northwestern town, Chomutov is dealing with an outflow of residents who feel cut off and overlooked by the city. In an effort to prevent these problems in the future, the city found a simple solution in the form of participatory budgeting.