Chelsea votes to fund tech, tree guards

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Participatory budgeting results announced for West Side council district


  • Five new arrival countdown clocks will be installed at West Side bus stops after residents voted to fund the project through the city’s Participatory Budgeting program. Photo: Michael Garofalo

  • Every public school in the third council district will receive technology upgrades such as computers and tablets after residents voted to fund the project through the city’s Participatory Budgeting program. Photo: Michael Garofalo

New bus countdown clocks, tree guards and technology improvements in local schools and libraries will be coming to Chelsea this year after nearly 3,500 West Siders cast votes for their preferred capital projects through the City Council’s Participatory Budgeting program. The program, which just recently completed its seventh annual voting cycle, lets residents vote on how to allocate $1 million in discretionary funding in their council district.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced the results for his third council district, which encompasses Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, during his annual state of the district speech May 20 on the High Line. “Participatory budgeting allows New Yorkers to decide how to spend their tax dollars to improve the community,” Johnson said. “It brings everyday New Yorkers into civic activity and it helps address problems by seeking ideas from those affected by them.”

Four projects will receive funding this year, out of 11 included on the ballot. The top vote-winner, with 2,289 votes, was a $350,000 district-wide initiative to upgrade technology in public schools. The project will fund new technology in every school in the district, Johnson said, “whether it’s computers or tablets or anything else the school needs to improve the learning environment for young people in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.”

Another tech-focused project, the installation of $200,000 worth of new equipment in the district’s libraries, received the second-most votes.

Arrival countdown clocks, to be installed at five stops throughout the district, with locations determined based on community feedback, was the third-most popular ballot item. “Don’t blame me for what these clocks show,” Johnson joked.

The project receiving the fourth-most votes will fund 200 tree guards around “valuable and vulnerable trees throughout the district” at a cost of $242,000.

A total of 3,498 people cast Participatory Budgeting ballots in Johnson’s district, which was open to all residents age 11 or older and allowed participants to vote for multiple projects. Ballots could be cast in person or online during the weeklong voting period last month. “Two years ago, only 300 people voted online,” Johnson noted. “This year, 1,500 people voted online.”

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