You’ve probably walked down the block-long stretch of 7th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets in front of the John Jay educational complex a thousand times, never really giving it much thought — aside from a few street trees, it’s a pretty unremarkable sidewalk. But parents from the John Jay PTAs and PAs have something nicer in mind, and it’s one of several Park Slope projects on the ballot for this year’s round of Participatory Budgeting in District 39. Ahead of the voting period, the parents wanted to share some details about their outdoor plaza proposal, and why they think you should vote for it.
A group of parents from the PTAs and PAs at the John Jay campus who volunteer at their own schools, and who’ve worked on some campus-wide projects together, heard about Participatory Budgeting from Councilmember Brad Lander and agreed it would be a great way for all the schools to come together to advocate for improvements in their building, which they say has a great need for structural and functional improvements.
“We considered pitching an interior project, however we all wanted to work together, and finding a project that we would each have access to and was also affordable was challenging,” says Katie Mosher-Smith, on behalf of the John Jay campus PAs and PTAs. ”We thought about the idea behind Participatory Budgeting: to create improvements for the whole community. We realized that with district funding, we wanted to offer a project that would not only benefit our own kids right now, but one that would create an improvement for the whole neighborhood and last for many years to come.
“The plaza also appealed to all of us because there are so many exciting things happening inside our building that are hard for the Park Slope community to see,” she adds. “A green plaza will be a signal to the community that children can flourish within our campus, and our doors are open!”
The parents note that this won’t just benefit the 1,500 6th through 12th grade students, and the teachers and staff, as a place to sit at lunchtime and a spot where teachers can take students for small group work during nice weather, but that the addition of benches, bike racks, and plantings will create a new public space that all neighbors can use.
“We have visions of the neighborhood finding it a great spot to meet for coffee or a sandwich in the shade on the weekend, perhaps a place to stop and visit with a neighbor on the way home from work,” Katie says.
The parents have found the Participatory Budgeting process to be rewarding, giving them a chance to collaborate with the principals (who they say all like the idea for the plaza), PB organizers and delegates, community groups, and each other.
“You have to be committed and work hard, and it helps to have a great team to work together with,” Katie says. “We would encourage other schools and organizations not to be discouraged — just plow through and hopefully the end result will be a favorable one. Even if a project isn’t chosen, the collaborative process is fun and invigorating for the communities that participate.”
Anyone who is 16 or older and lives in the district can vote for up to five projects during the voting process, which starts this week. Other local projects on the ballot include repairs to the Ennis Playground basketball courts, safety improvements on 4th Avenue from 8th to 18th Streets, laptops for 3rd-5th graders at PS 321 and other area schools, and more. Take a look at everything that’s on the ballot here.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed that people hear about what we’re proposing and like the idea as much as we all do,” Katie says.
Early voting will be held Tuesday, April 1 through Thursday, April 3 at Brad Lander’s office, 456 5th Ave, 3rd Floor, or you can vote on Saturday, April 5 from 10am-7pm at The Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street.