Help Me Spend $1 Million Op-ed

| 28 Sep 2015 | 11:56

Upper West Siders are never shy about making their voices heard. Your engagement with your community and your leaders has always been part of what makes this place so great--and part of what makes representing you on the City Council such a pleasure. With that in mind, I wanted to alert you to two opportunities where your input will make an important impact on our community.

Participatory Budgeting is back for its second year here on the Upper West Side. With $1 million of taxpayer funds placed directly in your hands, Participatory Budgeting is an extraordinary opportunity to make your ideas count. All throughout October, I’ll be hosting Neighborhood Assemblies (see the list below) to collect your ideas for what we can build or fix to improve our community. Bring your questions, concerns, and, most importantly, your creativity as we brainstorm what we can do to make the Upper West Side a better place to live, play, go to school, or just walk down the street.

Last year was a great start for Participatory Budgeting. Residents came up with hundreds of ideas and volunteers from across the community worked together to turn those ideas into fifteen complete ballot items. In the spring, over 2,200 of you voted for your favorite projects, choosing to fund a Mobile Food Pantry for the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, bicycle safety improvements on the Hudson Greenway in Riverside Park, crosstown bus countdown clocks, and a new athletic field for MLK High School.

What will this year’s projects be? That’s up to you! You don’t need an advanced degree or years of experience in urban planning to be a leader in this project--just the expertise you already have by being an Upper West Sider. Come to one of our Neighborhood Assemblies, call my office, or log onto my website,, to submit ideas. I am so excited to hear what you come up with.

Another important opportunity for you to get involved comes with the American Museum of Natural History’s proposal for their new Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. The museum is a treasured institution here on the Upper West Side, and I could not be prouder to support it as it works to bring the wonders and opportunities of scientific inquiry to even more learners through the new Center. But your help is needed to make sure the new center’s design is the best possible for our neighborhood.

Since the museum--and Theodore Roosevelt Park, which surrounds it--are such treasures for so many of us, it’s important that the community be aware of and involved in the development of the new center. Your input will be essential as the museum works to ensure tham the new center fits into a plan for a park that is inclusive and welcoming to all Upper West Siders, and I will be doing everything I can to facilitate this important conversation between the museum and the community.

There will be many opportunities to make your voice heard, as the museum, my office, the Community Board, and other community groups seek out your comments and concerns. The museum presented the proposal at a forum in July and has already begun incorporating community suggestions into their plans. I will be hosting a townhall meeting with the museum as they unveil the details of their plans and ask for more feedback. Stay tuned for more details. The development of the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation has the potential to serve both the museum and neighbors and to bring everyone involved closer together.

The Upper West Side has always amazed me with its vibrant culture of civic participation. With your ideas and input, in the coming weeks we will add to our community’s long and storied history.

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side on the New York City Council