Voters send cash to local projects

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About 1,300 people in the northwest Bronx voted to allocate more than $1 million to renovate the David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (RKA)’s auditorium, install bus countdown clocks throughout the neighborhood, provide new laptops for the Spuyten Duyvil School (P.S. 24), upgrade the Spuyten Duyvil Playground and repair Van Cortlandt Library’s leaky roof.

Residents selected those projects out of 11 choices in participatory budgeting held last month. Councilman Andrew Cohen announced the results on Monday, adding he would allocate discretionary funding to replacing windows at Mosholu Libary and  renovating P.S. 8’s auditorium this year. He promised to fund the four projects that did not win at a time to be determined in the future.

“This is you guys deciding how to spend your tax money,” Mr. Cohen said before dozens of people gathered at RKA. “Doing it this way so that our community has the opportunity to have some input, it just really makes for some better projects.”

With 659 votes, the $375,000 project to renovate RKA’s auditorium won the most ballots of any of the options. All 11 projects came out of brainstorming sessions open to the public that began last fall. After volunteers worked with city agencies to narrow down the proposals, they came up with choices for people ages 16 and up living in City Council district 11 to select during balloting at various locations during a week in April.

Mr. Cohen said the idea for renovating RKA’s auditorium, which has old seats and curtains and lacks air conditioning, came from students and their parents.

“This is the kind of project I would not have known about were it not for PB,” he added, using the popular acronym for participatory budgeting.

The process came to the city three years ago, when a handful of council members moved to let constituents directly determine where portions of their discretionary budgets would go. This year, 24 total council districts used the process.

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