Feb. 3, 2016 By Michael Florio
Residents of Astoria, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst can set aside some time in late March or early April to help decide how $1.5 million should be spent in their district.
Council Member Costa Constantinides has announced voting dates and locations for this year’s participatory budgeting process, which allows constituents to vote on how capital dollars should be spent in their district.
This year Constantinides has set aside $1.5 million for participatory budgeting. This number is up 50 percent from last year, so that $500,000 could be directed specifically for Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst projects.
Voting will take place from March 28 to April 3. The final ballot of items and projects to vote on will be released in the coming weeks, according to the Councilman.
Voting sites include Bohemian Hall, the Community Board 1 office, the Steinway Library, and Constantinides’ office, among others.
Unlike last year, the voting centers will not be open all day for the entire week, but they will have varying hours from place to place. This schedule is designed to have more volunteers on hand, with some designated to promote the voting session and recruit participants.
Constantinides’ district covers Astoria, and parts of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Woodside. Last year, he allocated $1 million to the process, which went towards public school tech upgrades to be distributed among seven schools, a dog run to be located under the Triborough/RFK Bridge, and the conversion of IS 126’s parking lot into a playground.
About 2,200 residents voted in last year’s process.
Constantinides hopes that number will increase this year.
“We hope the turnout is larger,” Constantinides said. “We have seen a larger turnout in [last fall’s project brainstorming] assemblies than last year and are hopeful that will carry over.”
With added money for Jackson Heights this year, Constantinides said he hopes that more constituents in that part of his district will participate as well.
“We are hoping some new voting locations like Bruno’s [88-25 Astoria Blvd.] are more accessible,” he said.
Constantinides is spreading the word through his newsletter and email blasts, but also by attending community board and other community meetings.
A full voting schedule is posted below.