May 1, 2015 By Michael Florio,
Many Astoria residents went to the polls last month to vote on how $1 million in city funds should be spent in the neighborhood.
Councilman Costa Constantinides will be announcing the results Tuesday—now that the 2,200 votes that were cast have been tallied.
The $1 million dollars that was put up for a vote was part of a process called participatory budgeting. The concept provides residents with a direct say on how the money should be spent in the district.
Residents were able to vote for as many as five neighborhood projects—from a list of 18. The projects that receive the most votes—up until the $1 million is exhausted– will be funded by the councilman.
Constantinides said he was pleased with the number of voters who came out and cast their vote during the week of April 12-19. He said that the average Queens district had generated roughly 1,800 voters in previous years. His district topped that number by 400 voters.
“We surpassed the average number and I think the community really responded well,” he said. “People were excited and energized by this process.”
However, the number was small when compared to the number of registered voters in the district—which is about 80,000. That number does not include 16 or 17 years or non-citizens who were allowed to vote in this process.
However, Constantinides district is about the same size as other Queens districts—with a significant number typically having an even lower turnout. For instance, in the 23rd district last year 1,888 residents voted, according to a press release issued by Councilman Mark Weprin at the time.
Constantinides said that there is more work to be done to bring out voters, but still believes it was a success given that it was introduced to the district for the first time this year.
“There is opportunity to grow in any process, but for the first time of having this [project] we are ecstatic by the turn out,” he said.
Costantinides didn’t make a projection as to what the turnout would be prior to the vote.
“We never quantified a number, we just wanted to get the word out and engage the neighborhood,” he added.
Voters had plenty of opportunity to cast their ballots—as Constantinides set up many polling booths—which were open 12 hours a day.
The locations were: Constantinides’ office; Bohemian Hall; the Community Board 1 office; Goodwill Apartments; and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker’s office.
In addition to these polling sites, he set up temporary pop up stands at various locations—such as at the Ditmars Station, 30th Ave and Broadway stations, the Steinway branch library, the Astoria Houses, and the Astoria Heights Playground.
“I commend my staff and the close to 100 volunteers who were part of this process,” he said.
He also set up a pop up booth at Long Island City High School, which helped generate excitement in the younger residents.
“Even though they can’t vote in a general election they were excited to participate and have their voice heard,” he said.
Constantinides said that the process will begin again next September and he hopes to generate more votes and engage more residents.
He is considering online voting, although he is not sure exactly how that would work. However, he said, it could lead to more people being able to vote, so it is worth looking into.