Voting Begins: Participatory Budgeting From Harlem To Hollis Takes NYC By Storm

May 17, 2023

New York City Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) Chair and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Sayeed today announced the launch of “The People’s Money” voting phase.

“The People’s Money” is New York City’s first-ever citywide participatory budgeting process. Until June 25th, all New York City residents ages 11 and older, regardless of immigration status, will be able to vote on how to spend $5 million of mayoral expense funding to address community needs.

New Yorkers living in any one of the five boroughs will be able to vote on a ballot for their borough, while those living in one of 33 equity neighborhoods will also be able to vote on a ballot for their neighborhood. Residents can vote online by inputting their zip codes. Paper ballots will also be available citywide at sites listed here. After June 25th, ballots will be tabulated, winning projects will be announced, and then be implemented starting in 2024.

The CEC will be co-hosting five flagship events, one in each borough featuring The People’s Bus, a retired Department of Corrections vehicle transformed into a mobile community center, where residents will also be able to vote. The events are:

  • Bronx Week Culture Festival: Grand Concourse (from 168 to 161) – May 21st
  • Queens Night Market: Flushing Meadows Park – June 3rd
  • Family & Fatherhood Fun Day: Clove Lakes Park – June 10th
  • Museum Mile Festival: Museum of the City of New York – June 13th
  • BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival: Prospect Park Bandshell – June 15th

“As we work towards a more equitable city, the launch of ‘The People’s Money’ represents a significant step towards inclusiveness,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “By allowing all New York City residents to vote on how to spend $5 million of mayoral expense funding, we are empowering communities to have a direct say in addressing their needs. I encourage all eligible residents to participate in this historic participatory budgeting process and help shape the future of our great city.”


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“The city budget is, in fact, the people’s money. This year, for the first time ever, New Yorkers across the city have the opportunity to weigh in directly and specifically on how your money is spent,” said NYC Chief Engagement Officer Betsy MacLean. “Big ups to the Civic Engagement Commission — leading the direct democracy charge in our city with an abiding emphasis on equity, inclusion, creativity, and joy.  Please join us in this transformative effort and vote! Together we can send a powerful message that New Yorkers want, need, and love participatory budgeting!”

“Throughout The People’s Money process, the CEC has been focused on manifesting community power and meeting New Yorkers where they are at. During this voting phase we will continue our robust efforts to engage equitably with residents across the five boroughs,” said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director of, NYC Civic Engagement Commission. “Participatory budgeting is a pathway into civic engagement that enables communities to move their voice into action on decisions that impact their lives.”

On September 14th, 2022, Mayor Adams and the CEC announced the launch of The People’s Money. From September through November of 2022, the CEC invited New Yorkers to virtual and in-person workshops to learn about the city budget cycle, identify community needs, and brainstorm ideas for expense projects through interactive activities and discussion. Residents were also able to propose ideas and projects online directly on this platform. Prior to launching, the CEC led a robust engagement process to solicit proposals from community-based organizations and other groups to host Idea Generations Sessions across the five boroughs. The CEC received 220 applications and selected 82 partners.

The CEC and 82 partners facilitated 523 Idea Generation sessions across the city through which we engaged 12,344 New Yorkers. In addition to sessions facilitated by partner organizations, the CEC also collaborated with the offices of Borough Presidents to host five borough-based Idea Generation Sessions. New Yorkers submitted 2,023 ideas for our boroughs and 2,116 ideas for our equity neighborhoods.

From December 2022 through February 2023, randomly selected resident committees evaluated submitted ideas against equity and feasibility criteria and developed and selected the final project proposals to be placed on the ballots.

Throughout the month of March, the CEC held 13 strategy sessions open to the public to elicit input on how to perform ‘Get Out the Vote’ outreach most effectively. 33 contracted organizational partners will engage in targeted outreach in Equity Neighborhoods to ensure an inclusive and equitable process.

“Citywide participatory budgeting will give New Yorkers a voice on how our city spends public dollars for their community,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. “As one of the first city council members to kick-off participatory budgeting in my district, I have witnessed firsthand how a community-driven budgeting process can empower our neighbors. I’m extremely excited it is being implemented citywide and cannot wait to see what policies and programs New Yorkers choose to prioritize across the five boroughs.”

“Allowing for communities to be a part of the process of deciding how public funds are spent is common sense,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “’The People’s Money is helping our city’s residents expand their civic roles and open up what it means to be an active participant in the future of New York. I’m so thrilled that our neighbors as young as 11 years old and no matter their citizenship status will have the chance to put $5 million toward the projects they’ve identified as community priorities. Thank you to New York City Civic Engagement Commission Chair and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Sayeed for leading in this work to reaffirm the most basic tenets of democracy.”

“Participatory budgeting is a great way to get New Yorkers of all ages civically engaged,” said New York City Council Member Rita Joseph. “I applaud the Civic Engagement Commission for launching the first-ever citywide PB process. Starting today, New Yorkers across all five boroughs will be able to decide how the city spends $5 million to address community needs.”

“Civic engagement supports and uplifts all voices, and by incorporating initiatives like Participatory Budgeting, we’re empowering residents to vote on projects they want to see in their neighborhood,” said New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. “This is an exciting time for New Yorkers of all ages, and I encourage anyone eligible to vote on a project they’re passionate about.”

“I’m thrilled to see the Civic Engagement Commission launching ‘The People’s Money’ voting phase, New York City’s first-ever citywide participatory budgeting process,” said New York City Council Member Farah Louis. “This initiative offers an opportunity for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, to actively engage in how we allocate $5 million of the mayoral expense funding to meet the needs of our communities. I commend Mayor Adams and the administration for their commitment to promoting civic engagement and participatory democracy in our city. I believe this initiative will go a long way in ensuring that our communities’ voices are heard, and their needs are addressed.”

“NYCHA supports New Yorkers having their voices heard when it comes to investing in their quality of life and the future of our city,” said NYCHA Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “We strongly encourage all New Yorkers — and especially NYCHA residents — to vote in The People’s Money process to ensure that the $5 million funds the community needs that they find most important.”

“New Yorkers know their community best and through the expanded participatory budget voting, communities in every borough can decide how ‘The Peoples’ Money’ is spent,” said Chief Service Officer Laura Rog. “We look forward to helping the Civic Engagement Commission, along with community-based organizations and volunteers, get out the vote now through June 25th.”

“Citywide participatory budgeting is an extraordinary effort to empower communities across all five boroughs to actively decide how to direct millions of dollars towards local projects or services,” said Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Fred Kreizman. “I commend the Civic Engagement Commission for their work engaging New Yorkers, as young as 11 years old and regardless of immigration status, to spend The People’s Money.”

“The launch of “The People’s Money” marks an important milestone for New York City as it embarks on its first-ever citywide participatory budgeting process. By giving New Yorkers the opportunity to vote on projects that matter most to them, we are promoting transparency, accountability, and civic engagement, said NYC Department of Veterans’ Services Commissioner James Hendon. “This process reinforces the importance of community-driven decision-making and helps to ensure resources are allocated to where they are most needed.”

“Our staff at PEU work day in and day out to bridge the gap between New Yorkers and New York City government, and we see firsthand the impact that grassroots community-building can have in connecting people to resources, building trust, and strengthening our city,” said Isolina De La Cruz, Acting Director, NYC Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit. “This citywide participatory budgeting process is empowering all New York City residents, 11 and up, to make decisions to fill their community needs. We’re so excited that the next step in this process is coming to life!”

“New Yorkers are the experts when it comes to their neighborhoods. The People’s Money puts the power of decision-making in the hands of the people, giving everyday New Yorkers a voice in shaping their community,” said Commissioner Sideya Sherman, NYC Mayor’s Office of Equity. “Our office is excited to continue investing in this vital effort. We extend our gratitude to the Taskforce of Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE) neighborhood coalitions working on the ground to increase voter participation and civic power across the 33 equity neighborhoods.”

“The launch of ‘The People’s Money’ voting phase is a milestone in making civic engagement accessible and inclusive for all New Yorkers, including those with disabilities,’ said Commissioner Christina Curry, NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “We are happy to support this process and urge all eligible residents to vote on allocating $5 million toward addressing community needs. It’s great to see the city prioritizing the voices and needs of its residents, and we will continue to work together towards a more equitable and inclusive city.”

“The Fortune Society is excited to work in collaboration with the Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) and its organizational partners to ensure that justice-impacted people realize the power of civic engagement to effect change,” said Dr. Ronald F. Day, Vice President of Programs and Research, The Fortune Society. “We are grateful to the CEC for focusing efforts on historically disenfranchised people—including those currently in jail or pre-trial detention and those with a history of incarceration—because participatory budgeting is a meaningful way for them to decide how best to support their communities.” 

“During The People’s Money idea generation phase, public housing residents from across the five boroughs discussed challenges their community is facing and program ideas to address those problems,” said Public Housing Community Fund Executive Director Alex Zablocki. “The Public Housing Community Fund, in partnership with NYCHA, is excited to support this next phase to GOTV! We are thrilled to work with the Civic Engagement Commission to empower NYCHA residents and give them a voice and opportunity to vote on projects. Over the next few weeks, we will collaborate with resident leaders in every borough and work with Cornerstones to educate the public about Citywide Participatory Budgeting and get ballots in the hands of public housing residents 11 years of age or older to get out the vote.” 

“YVote youth are up for the challenge of securing at least 5,000 votes for the inaugural People’s Money campaign! Since New York City residents as young as 11 regardless of immigration status can participate—making voting much more accessible to youth than typical elections—YVoters are using the same issue-driven, peer-to-peer approach that’s been successful in our own programs,” said Sanda Balaban, Co-Founder/Director, YVote and Next Generation Politics. “They have been busy preparing social media campaigns to engage with peers online alongside in-person organizing efforts that will center conversations about community issues that matter most to youth in their own schools and communities. YVote youth are ready to get out the vote!”

“THE POINT CDC is excited to partner with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission in offering residents of Hunts Point and Longwood an opportunity to directly impact the city’s budget through Participatory Budgeting,” said Maria Torres, President & Chief Operating Officer, THE POINT Community Development Corporation. “Putting city decisions in the hands of local residents, including our youth, is exactly what we’ve been striving for in all of the work we do, and we’re looking forward to connecting with our neighbors and getting out the vote!” 

“The Kingsbridge Heights Community Center is incredibly proud to have partnered with the NYC CEC and TRIE in the development and launch of New York City’s first-ever citywide participatory budgeting voting process,” said Raye Barbieri, Chief Executive Officer, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center. Now, community residents will decide for themselves how public monies will be spent by casting their votes for projects that match their specific priorities – a crucial step forward in the march towards equitable budgeting!”

“South Queens Women’s March is proud to have worked for many months to raise the visibility about the People’s Money. The NYC CEC has been an incredible partner on this journey of community visioning. In coalition with many partners, we have collectively dreamed up projects that have a chance to come to fruition in neighborhoods that have historically been under-resourced,” said Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Founder & Executive Director, South Queens Women’s March. “We are excited to take this work to the next level and activate as many of our neighbors towards civic engagement by completing their ballots.”

“East New York Restoration Local Development Corporation is excited to lead a coalition of stakeholders in promoting participatory budgeting in the communities of East New York, Cypress Hills and Starrett City”, said Colette Pean, Executive Director, East New York Restoration Local Development Corporation.  “Getting community residents involved in deciding what projects get funding gives them ownership of the programs.”

“Participatory budgeting respects the voice and choice of the hard-working families of East Harlem who for too long have felt distant from what happens at the other end of Manhattan,” said Jonah Gensler, CEO, LSA Family Health Service. Two hundred neighbors came together to forge bold ideas to better their community – from mental health lifelines to adult education for Spanish speakers to build life skills and pathways to citizenship.  This is what democracy looks like!”

The People’s Money Background:

In November 2018, one million New Yorkers voted and approved three ballot initiatives proposed by the 2018 Charter Revision Commission. This established the NYC CEC and included a mandate for the CEC to implement a citywide participatory budgeting (PB) process. Prior to receiving funding to run a citywide program, the CEC ran two localized PB processes, beginning with “It’s Our Money” in 2019 and “The People’s Money” in 2021:

  • “It’s Our Money,” (2019) funded five $20,000 youth-focused projects and engaged over 3,000 young people citywide. This process was designed by youth, for youth, with the goal of empowering young people to voice their priorities and needs to determine which project ideas should be funded. Youth organizations were invited to submit project proposals that targeted young people’s specific needs and interests.
  • In 2021, the CEC launched “The People’s Money,” a $1.3 million PB process in the 33 neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19, as part of the Taskforce for Racial Inclusion and Equity (TRIE) Neighborhood Initiative and in partnership with YMI (the Young Men’s Initiative). Residents decided how to spend over $40,000 in expense funding in programs & services for their neighborhood.

Traditionally, participatory budgeting in New York City has only been accessible to residents whose council members have opted to run a process in their district, primarily through discretionary capital funding for projects that can take years to materialize. However, a process utilizing expense funding provides residents with the flexibility to submit creative ideas that may include projects, services, or events, and to see the projects that receive the majority vote implemented within the following year.

All projects for this cycle must be completed by June of 2024. The CEC will report back the results of the projects upon completion, including metrics such as the number of residents served, outcomes, highlights, successes, and challenges.

Implementation of citywide PB strengthens and expands what is currently the largest PB process in the nation, while deepening civic trust and engaging communities in a process grounded in the principle of collective determination. Citywide PB will showcase a new and unique collaboration between City Hall and its agencies, Borough Presidents, City Council, community boards, CBOs, New Yorkers, and particularly those who have been historically underrepresented. 

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