Overview: Participatory Budgeting Voting Begins
Last Wednesday night, after a year and a half long process, residents gathered to pitch their projects to the greater community.
“Would you like to have a nice walkway around Deal Lake, instead of having to tromp through unmown and bug infested grass? Then vote now for the Deal Lake improvement project,” writes Evelyn Alpert, on Nextdoor.
On Facebook, Kerri Martin posts, “I am personally voting for 8A: PLAYGROUND IMPROVEMENTS TO SUNSET PARK. The title doesn’t exactly explain it. This idea envisions a creative and artsy play and socialization space in the western end of Sunset Park. It is a great centrally located, tree-covered area where residents of all ages can play, exercise and socialize year-round. I would go there every day!”
Both women are encouraging their friends and neighbors to vote in the participatory budgeting process that is taking place for the first time in Asbury Park this year.
Last Wednesday night, after a year and a half long process, residents gathered to pitch their projects to the greater community. City Manager Donna Vieiro kicked off the event, acknowledging that “this is a very new and fluid process so bear with us if we have some hiccups. But we had a lot of applicants, a lot of really great ideas I’m really excited about. I wish we could do them all. The council has allocated $250,000 for this process, so if the estimated cost of the project with the highest number of votes is only $100,000, we’ll go to the next one.” Councilperson Eileen Chapman reported that there were initially 90 projects suggested by community members, half of which fit the criteria of being capital projects on city owned property. Projects also must benefit the public and last for 5 years or more with a minimal cost to maintain.
In New Jersey, several communities have used the process in various initiatives including Neptune City, Freehold, Maplewood, West Orange and Jersey City. The City of Asbury Park decided to embark on a participatory budgeting process in 2021, spearheaded by Chapman after hearing Freehold’s Mayor Kevin Kane speak about the process at the League of Municipalities meeting in Atlantic City. “I flew out of my seat and approached the Mayor after his presentation. I must have asked him a dozen questions. I thought this would be the perfect project for Asbury Park.”
According to the nonprofit, The Participatory Budgeting Project, the process “gives people a say in how public money is spent in their communities. Participatory Budgeting started in Brazil in 1989 as a way to fight poverty and improve public services and has since spread to over 7000 cities worldwide.” That organization assists in public processes to “deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.”
Below is a summary that lists and describes the proposed projects, along with available cost estimates.
Brief Descriptions of Proposed Projects
1. Bike Repair Stations: Stations are the size of parking meter stations and include hook-up for bikes, various tools, and a bicycle pump. Proposed locations: Ocean Avenue; Transportation Center; Springwood Park. Estimated Cost: $7500 (3 @ $2,500). Presented by Pam Lamberton, member of the Sunset Lake Commission.
2. Boat Ramps/Launches/Docks: New municipal dock – kayak launch. Estimated Cost: Non-ADA compliant – $15K – 20K; ADA-compliant – 30K – 50K+; -or- floating dock, including ramp and platform – $12K. Presented by Gabriella Cucinotta.
3. Deal Lake Improvements: Walking path & pollinator garden on Deal Lake; concrete dock restoration; new floating dock. Estimated Cost: Walking path $105,075 Presented by Jim Henry, member of the Planning Board and the Environmental and Shade Tree Commission.
4A. Dog Park – Springwood Park
4B. Dog Park – Library Square Park
4C. Two Dog Parks – Main St. & 7th Avenue: The dog parks will be located where the boat ramp is, by the semi-circular driveway. The space is very large, covered with 14 or 15 beautiful trees. Trees will be protected by fencing, rocks and mulch. DPW will assist, and will help create “waste stations” for dogs. Garden plants will be removed and replanted around the perimeter of the dog parks. There will be one large park for large dogs, and a smaller park for small dogs. Both parks will border the peripheral driveway. Each park will have a water source for dogs and residents, and there will be benches, chairs and tables available. Six-foot fencing is required to be installed for each park, and each park will require two double-gate entries. Estimated Cost: (at least) $50K. Presented by Tom Pivinski, Chair of the Environmental Shade Tree Commission.
5. Fountain & Statue Replacement:
Sunset Lake Fountain – Engineering company will assess the existing concrete fountain for viability. (Cost: To be determined).
Inoperable fountain in the center of Amphitheater (North End of the Rain Garden by the train station) – A beautiful working fountain would be a welcoming gesture to people arriving at the train station. The nozzles will be repaired, and the pump, and motor will be replaced. Estimated Cost: $5K – $6K.
Bradley Statue – The statue would remain, but a bronze plaque would be created to acknowledge the racist history in Asbury Park, with a strong affirmation that Asbury Park residents are proud to be overcoming it. Suggested acknowledgment: “James A. Bradley designed the original streetscape of Asbury Park. With no formal training, most agree he did an excellent job providing wide streets which funnel the ocean breeze Westward. He provided public transportation and all the amenities a tourist town in the 1880s could envision. However, James Bradley also espoused a racist attitude toward the blue-collar population of the city. Hotels were not for people of color, and the people who labored to make Asbury Park an extraordinary city, were marginalized. This racist attitude continued through the Jim Crow years and beyond. It is only today, in the 21st century, that we see a more equitable treatment of our population. We continue to strive toward a totally inclusive city.” Estimated Cost: $25K or $11K. Presented by Pam Lamberton, member of the Sunset Lake Commission.
6. Outdoor Exercise Equipment: Five station system at Wesley Lake with 120 exercises, instructions and lesson plans for middle and high school students, and adults. Each station focuses on a different area to achieve total fitness. Estimated Cost: $25K + installation. Presented by Gail Rosewater, Chair of the Wesley Lake Commission.
7A. Art Benches: Primarily in Sunset Park – Five site-specific art benches will be created by professional artists. The benches are practical, beautiful, true works of art that are meant to be touched, explored and played on. Estimated Cost: $50K. Presented by Wendy Glassman, member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Mayor’s Wellness Committee and the Sunset Lake Commission.
7B. Standard Benches (Cost: To be Determined).
8A. Playground Improvements: Sunset Lake Park – Adult swings, baby swings, climbing structures, along with artistic and interactive options that blend in beautifully with the park. Estimated Cost: $50K. Presented by Polli Schildge.
8B. Playground Improvements: Library Square Park (Cost: To be determined).
9. St. John’s Island Pavilion – Construct a pavilion to host a wide range of events. Creative landscaping to enhance the natural beauty. An open air pavilion would be perfect for a concert or reception, using simple local materials with a view of the ocean. Estimated Cost: $50K – $75K. Presented by Matthew Mumma-Berman, and his son, Owen Mumma-Burman.
10. Kayak Storage Racks: Add several simple-design kayak storage racks around the city: Park on 7th Avenue; Main Street near the boat ramp; two ramps on the beach to provide kayak and stand-up paddle board access to the ocean. Estimated Cost: $2K per rack. Presented by Doug McQueen, Vice Chair of the Wesley Lake Commission.
The room was sparse. The majority of presenters were members of Boards and Commissions in Asbury Park, and most people in the room were noticeably older and white. Chapman addressed this by vowing changes for the next round of projects. “The top three things that I would like to see the committee to do differently in the future would be to earmark $50,000 of funding for a project that would be decided by 14 to 18-year-old residents, develop a better messaging campaign that would increase participation throughout the city, and tailor the submission requirements to include more details about each proposed project,” explained Chapman. In the future, the Participatory Budget Committee meetings will be held in public to increase transparency.
Kerri Martin, of Second Life Bikes, underscores that although she is campaigning for the playground project, she is also advocating for continued collaborations. “I’m excited about this process. I see the potential. I’m looking forward to the schools getting involved. This is a great opportunity for teachers to engage students. We shouldn’t think in terms of competition, rather, collaboration. And, through continued dialogue, we make better decisions as a community. “
Ballots are available in English and Spanish.
The Participatory Budget Committee consists of Councilmember Eileen Chapman, Joe Lucarelli, Chris Mansicalo, Jacklyn Sharpe and Paul Weinstein.
Posted on the City Website:
Participatory Budget Voting Information
Voting runs March 16, 2023 through March 31, 2023. To vote, you must reside in the City of Asbury Park AND be at least 14 years old. Eligible voters may cast only ONE ballot to vote for ONE project of their choice. Your vote will decide which projects will be funded with the $250,000 budget. All projects were submitted by your friends and neighbors. Winning projects will be announced on April 12, 2023 at a public meeting, posted on this page and shared on social media.
Watch and listen below as residents present ideas and details for their projects during the March 15 Participatory Budget Program Meeting: