For those living in New York City, the lingering affects of the COVID-19 pandemic are a persistent reminder of how disruptive the last two years have been. The global health pandemic took a toll in nearly every corner of the globe, but while some areas have readily bounced back, others are struggling to find their footing. This unprecedented period has painted a clear picture of America’s struggle with inequity. And in NYC that image is exposing hard truths. 

In order to address them, community organizations throughout the city proposed 99 ideas to meet urgent needs such as mental health, hunger, youth programs, and reducing gun violence. The winning projects begin next month through June 2022. To give New Yorkers a say in what projects move forward, city agency partners executed ad campaigns, canvassed, held town-hall style events and more to reach low-income New Yorkers, immigrants, and people of color. Through voting events across the five boroughs, residents were keyed in on the participatory budgeting process. And in order to help them access the vote, a variety of methods, including online and by phone, were available to let their voices be heard on the projects in their neighborhood. 

“We commend the TRIE neighborhood coalitions for their tireless work engaging community members in local decision-making and crafting solutions to everyday challenges,” says Sideya Sherman, Executive Director of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE), a participating organization. “We look forward to seeing the successful implementation of these projects, which will catalyze future participatory budgeting in our city.” 

Votes were collected from December 6, 2021 through January 31, 2022. These votes ultimately determined the winning organization and ideas that would be responsible for bettering their neighborhoods through government funding.

“When community residents have a voice in the decision-making process for issues and opportunities that affect their community, they are empowered and own the outcomes of their choices,” says Dwayne Ashely, CEO Bridge Philanthropic Consulting.

Coined, “The People’s Money,” the participatory budgeting process supports 33 neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19. These investments total $1.3 million and are earmarked for the support of a more fair recovery in the city. In all, 29,000 New Yorkers voted on how to spend the money. Projects include a Resource and Job Fair in East Harlem and a Wellness Center in East Flatbush to address mental health, Build-A-Bench & Paint-A-Bench in Bedford Stuyvesant to support youth programming, and Stop Gun Violence Community Forum in the Bronx to help reduce gun violence.

“The Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE) is dedicated to bridging the gap between communities and the City,” says Sherman. “New Yorkers know first-hand what their communities need, and through The People’s Money, are directing City resources to projects that reflect local priorities.”