Participatory Budgeting in NYC

The People’s Money: Participatory Budgeting in NYC

YVote youth practiced canvassing for voter registration last summer. This year, they’ll put their canvassing skills to the test as they gather Participatory Budgeting votes!

What is Participatory Budgeting?

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. The process began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 (source).

Today, Participatory Budgeting has been implemented in over 250 municipalities in the US alone, with over 11,000 instances of Participatory Budgeting recorded across 71 countries according to the Participatory Budgeting World Atlas.

PB was brought to New York in 2010 by four City Council Members – Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Jumaane Williams, and Eric Ulrich. Since then, over 33 City Council districts have invited their residents to decide how to spend public funds in a process called PBNYC.

In November 2018, close to one million New Yorkers voted in a citywide referendum proposed by the 2018 Charters Revision Commission for a ballot initiative creating the Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) and mandating it to implement a citywide participatory budgeting program. This mandate can be found in Chapter 76 of the city charter. (Source: NYC Civic Engagement Coalition)

YVote & Participatory Budgeting

YVote’s Environmental Justice group won first place in the 2021 It’s Your Money Youth Participatory Budgeting campaign. This citywide initiative was the first of its kind, and YVote’s youth participants were awarded $20,000 to implement their project by building community gardens in underfunded public schools around New York. You can learn more about the success of this project here.

“YVote youth were honored to be chosen by peers from across the city for funding for our Green Space Project in 2021. There is nothing more empowering than being able to design much-needed enhancements for under-resourced communities and bring them to fruition–in our case, to cultivate gardens that provide beautiful, contemplative applied learning space for environmental education, mental health, and holistic well being for young people. We are thrilled that this participatory budgeting initiative will now be available citywide–and delighted that it will continue to be open to community members as young as 11!”

Sanda Balaban, YVote Co-Founder and Executive Director

The People’s Money

In September 2022, the NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) launched The People’s Money – NYC’s first-ever citywide participatory budgeting process! All New Yorkers age 11 and up, regardless of immigration status, will be able to decide how to spend $5 million of Mayoral expense funding (Source: NYC Civic Engagement Coalition).

The People’s Money has used a four-step process to involve community members from all five boroughs. Beginning in September 2022, the CEC hosted community workshops to raise awareness and solicit submissions of potential expense projects. A total of 4,139 proposals were submitted throughout Phase 1. Phase 2 ran from December 2022 through February 2023 and allowed Borough Assembly Committees and Neighborhood Coalitions to evaluate proposals against equity criteria. From May 10th-June 25th, New Yorkers from all five boroughs will have the opportunity to participate in Phase 3: Voting. After Voting concludes, the winning projects will be announced, funded, and implemented. 

You can learn more about the different proposals we’ll be voting on here.