BetaNYC

Join NYC's School of Data

On Saturday, 5 March 2016, we invited government, civic hackers, and community based organizations to learn from each other and share strategies on how to improve our communities and our data. Together, we shared strategies on how to improve the City’s data ecosystem and tactics to enrich our communities through technology, data, & design.

UPDATE: Code For America announced the winners of the National Advisory Council. (link)

Thank you for participating; 800 ballots were cast.

Over the next year, the council will tackle some of the most pressing brigade community issues. Our responsibilities will include:

  • Serving as a bridge between local groups and the national network — sharing stories and reporting successes and challenges
  • Ensuring Brigade initiatives respect the position and needs of the local chapters
  • Establishing policies and plans for growth, communications, event guidelines, local governance, etc.
  • Helping to facilitate knowledge sharing across Brigades
  • Upholding the network’s code of conduct, reviewing violations, and advising on actions
  • Advising on network-wide funding decisions and needs
  • Establishing partnerships with complementary organizations
  • Making hard decisions about network priorities and giving the community more ownership of the program

On a personal note, I’m humbled by the fact the community placed my nomination and that CfA is dedicated to divesting the Brigade’s leadership power into its community of leaders. I can see we are on the verge of a new social movement that is aligned with social justice, equality, health, and housing. Our skills are a bit geekier, and we have much to learn from our past, but our values are not divergent. Our civic hacking values grow from our collective uprisings for justice and self-determination. As a member of this national community, we will move forward. Pal’ante! Juntos! Forward! Together! 

More information to come after the Code for America summit in early November.

 


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Today is a very important day. It is the last day to have a say in the future direction of Code for America’s brigade program. As Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America’s executive director, stated in her most recent post on medium, “when you vote for National Advisory Council (NAC) members, you’re voting for the people who will get to that clarity for the greater good of the [civic tech] network.”

As reported in Civicist, I am cautiously optimistic. Since BetaNYC’s 2013 reformation and joining the Brigade program, I’ve participated in a struggle to build a national organization that uses our passions to solve local issues and improve ourselves and our neighbor’s lives.

In 2013, BetaNYC’s community wrote a roadmap that defined our values. Locally, we have built a social movement where our collective voices are baked into local decisions.

At the national level, Brigades have not had the same opportunity at self-determination. This year, CfA addressed this through a co-creation process that has left us with the very important decision that needs to be made TODAY.

Today is the last day to vote on Code for America’s National Advisory Council. VOTE HERE

I am on the ballot and I want civic hackers to have a national organization that will hear their voices and guide them into sustainability. My next step is to help determine our national roadmap. As local and national leaders, our voices should be at the table. To ensure this, Lauren Reneé and I have discussed the following goals.

  1. Outline collective governance of the NAC. This includes ensuring members have designated proxies and there is a clear understanding of succession. FYI – Lauren Reneé, BetaNYC’s treasurer, would be my designated proxy.
  2. Host a constitutional convention that defines a clear relationship between Brigades and Code for America.
  3. Outline a business plan around that constitution.
  4. Ensure the NAC and local leaders are given financial and leadership tools to excel.
  5. Ensure future NAC leadership is diverse across gender, ethnicity, and geography.

Please take a few mins to read what other Brigade leaders are saying — Vyki Englert, Jill Bjers, Luigi Ray-Montanez, Nick Kaufmann, Jason Hibbets — a few informative articles, CfA Welcomes the community to vote, Civicist: recharging the brigade & CfA Brigade to elect first national advisory council and Technica.ly’s post.

Then, vote for Noel Hidalgo to represent BetaNYC’s interest in Code for America’s National Advisory Council. VOTE HERE => https://cfa.typeform.com/to/dlca96

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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

To the NYC Committee on Technology & Chairperson Vacca,

Introduction.

BetaNYC is a civic organization dedicated to improving all lives in New York through civic design, technology, and data. We envision an informed and empowered public that can leverage civic design, technology, and data to hold government accountable, and improve their economic opportunity.

We were founded in 2008 as a “meetup” to discuss open government in NYC. Our work empowers individuals and local communities to build a civically‐engaged technology ecosystem and provide for an honest and inclusive government. We want New York’s governments to work for the people, by the people, for the 21st century.

BetaNYC demystifies design, technology, and data to the point where anyone can use it, create it, and participate in the decision making process. We host a number of online platforms that provide the general public a mechanism to share ideas and data.

In the last twelve months, our community has grown 700 new members. We are now over 3,700 civic hackers who are ready to use our talents to help our neighbors.

How open data has grown our community.

In the last twelve months, we have hosted four significant events—NYC School of Data, NYC TreesCount Data Jam, a BetaTalk conversation on affordable housing data, and another BetaTalk on the release of the City’s second largest data set, NYC 311 call inquiry data. We feel that these events have shaped where we are today, and point to a clear future.

We would like to thank Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; Council Member Ben Kallos, NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication; NYC Parks; NYC 311; Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics; and the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation for joining us as partners.

We would also like to thank all of the government employees who joined us for all of our events. Without their expertise, we would never properly demystify how government technology and data works.

 

How we use the City’s open data.

Re: Seven new pieces of open data legislation.

We fundamentally believe that these seven pieces of legislation were the right additions to make. We can see that they have strengthened the City’s open data practice.

We were honored to be a partner with NYC Parks and prototype examples of good data dictionaries and geospatial / address standards.

We commend the Mayor’s Office of Data analytics (MODA) for engaging with our community to gather public feedback and help ensure that the City’s data users have a voice.

We absolutely agree with our colleagues at Reinvent Albany and NYPIRG on the following:

 

  • automating 100 datasets in 2016. That makes a total of 200 datasets out of 1,600 automatically updating on the Open Data Portal whenever the agencies internal data changes.
  • publishing important new datasets including the City Budget, City Record Online, Seven Major Felony crime data, a huge TLC trip dataset, and NYC 311’s call inquiry data.
  • thirty of eighty agencies reported on FOIL responses that included public data that is or should be on the Open Data portal.
  • DoITT and MODA staff are reading comments and requests on the Open Data Portal and responding.
  • The administration’s Open Data Team published their annual update on-time.

Re: NYC’s Civic Innovation Fellows with Manhattan Borough President  Gale A. Brewer

Reference URL < https://beta.nyc/programs/nyc-civic-innovation-fellows/ >

Since July 2015, we have partnered with the Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer to develop an innovative civic engagement program we call the Civic Innovation Fellows. With financial support from the Fund for the City of New York and Data and Society Research Institution, we have explored how Community Board district offices can better use data and technology.

We have reviewed Manhattan Community Board offices, their data & analytics capacity, and how they share information across digital streams. We discovered that Community Boards have a desire to use open data but don’t always have the bandwith, education, nor tools to process the City’s data. Frustratingly, we discovered that there are zero best practices bringing Community Boards to use 21st century tools nor teaching them how to use NYC’s open data.

Using insights developed with Pratt Institute’s SAVI program, we have outlined a framework to teach Community Boards, Council offices, and community based organizations how to use NYC 311’s service request data and NYC Park’s TreesCount data. Frustratingly, we have not found any financial support to teach the City’s data to its residents.

NYC 311’s service request and NYC Park’s TreesCount data set are two of the 1,500 datasets that should have educational rubrics attached to their data dictionaries. While we love the data dictionaries law, this should be considered the floor, not the ceiling. Every data dictionary should contain mini-tutorials explaining how to best explore the data and how to embrace the data portal’s functions.

While some of my colleagues might criticize the current data portal’s user experience, a skilled user can quickly navigate around a dataset and easily produce reports. Granted, you will need a lightning fast connection, a large monitor, fast computer, and a bit of luck, but for now, we have the best portal tool for the widest audience. Moving forward, NYC needs to develop tools to better suit bulk data users. We encourage the city to explore open source data sharing tools that will give agencies the flexibility to host and share their own data. Fundamentally, we want Agencies accountable for producing high quality datasets.

This year, will be working with the Manhattan Borough President and the Fund for the City of New York to improve our Civic Innovation Fellows program and create a simplified online curriculum for all. We should note that this is something that this Administration and the Council would benefit from and we hope to have your investment as we build the next level of open data education.

Re: NYC Parks Data Jam

Referance URL < https://beta.nyc/2016/08/05/treescount-data-jam-2016-report-back/ >

The most important insight from the NYC Park Data Jam came from the evolution of a “user centered data release workflow.” Building off of user centered ideas, we believe that data sets should go through some user testing and like all technology products fit into a continuous improvement loop.

When is comes to continuous improvement of NYC’s most valuable, most used data sets, we believe that every agency and every dataset should go through this release workflow.

Phase 1: Research & Discovery

  • Establish target audiences
  • Draft data standards that appeal to broadest possible audience
  • Draft data dictionary

Phase 2: User Testing

  • Release sample dataset for feedback
  • Perform user testing and get feedback on data dictionary & dataset
  • Develop a framework and/or guide as how to explore the dataset’s important values
  • Allow time for revisions

Phase 3: Initial Deployment

  • Upload data set and data dictionary to Portal with an event or video explaining the key features of the data.
  • Allow time for user testing on Portal and gather open feedback.
  • Share insights and communicate them out to the public. Continue to gather public feedback.

NYC Parks Data Jam Event Metrics

  • Total Participants: 196
  • Data Jammer Participants: 144
  • Workshop Participants: 27
  • Participant Diversity:  45% male / 39% female / 16% unspecified / 1% other
  • Community Group / Public Stakeholder Groups: 5
  • Children in on-site daylong childcare: 7
  • Projects built: 23
  • Winners: 5
  • Organizers: NYC Parks and BetaNYC
  • Partners: NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, NYC Open Data, Civic Hall, Microsoft, Carto (was CartoDB).

Re: NYC School of Data

Reference URL < https://schoolofdata.nyc/a-brief-recap-of-nyc-school-of-data-2016/ >

NYC School of Data proved there is a massive community in NYC that wants data and technology to be demystified. For one day, we featured 18 sessions, 40 presenters, 16 came from NYC Government, & three were elected officials.

A quarter of the event contained a data jam looking at how to address economic justice.

A critical component to our event was child care. This ensured diverse attendance. Several of our speakers couldn’t attend if we didn’t offer childcare. For older children, make it explicit they could attend with their parents.

Should the city host an open data summit, please offer child care. It makes a fundamental difference.

NYC School of Data event metrics

  • We featured 18 sessions, 40 presenters, 22 are women, 16 came from NYC Government, & three are elected officials.
  • 372 tickets; checked in 260+ people; 11 children under 10 y.o. attended the event.
  • 49 people offered to volunteer. 30 labored.
  • Eight NYC High Schoolers learned to navigate NYC’s open data portal, manipulate NYC’s 311 data, & map this data into CartoDB.
  • One family attended and represented three generations: Grandma—organizer and data visualizer, Father—data advocate, & Daughter—aspiring civic hacker. 😉
  • Our event leadership team consisted of seven, three are women & five are people of color.
  • For a third of the day, our hashtag was a trending topic on Twitter — #nycSoData.
  • Organizer and Host: BetaNYC
  • Partners: Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Fund for the City of New York, Data and Society Research Institution, Microsoft, Carto (was CartoDB), Accela, Code for America, Internet Society of New York, NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, Council Member Ben Kallos, Reinvent Albany, and Civic Hall.

Insights from the last year

Three types of data users.

While there are many types of data users, this year’s research has led us to see three general types of data users.

  • The general public who wants to see what the numbers mean.
  • The data hacker who wants to see the data and play with the data.
  • The scientist, business, or government entity who wants to enter the matrix and download data bulk.

For NYC’s open data practice to be the best in the world, it must consider that these are the three types of users and each one has their own unique needs.

Concern about the seven new open data laws.

The passage of these seven new laws demonstrates that NYC’s open data program has hit maturity. As a municipal practice, the city needs an investment ensuring this open data practice lives beyond the 2018 goal. Currently, the seven new pieces of legislation have created an unstable situation that will overwhelming the current open data team’s ability to scale out NYC’s open data practice.

Discrepancy in open data production.

We see several agencies who completely understand the benefit of open data and collaborating with the public. Yet we some who seemingly refuse to accept that law is an essential part of the 21st century.

In the past year, NYC 311, NYC Parks, Department of City Planning, NYC DoITT’s GIS division, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have produced data tools and data that are exemplary of the City’s future. We hope their data teams continue to be supported and given the resources to lead by example.

More civic engagement events.

For the agencies that understand the value of open data, they have a unique opportunity to partner with the public and use hackathons and/or data jams to explore new insights and improve their data quality.

Quality data and data guides.

Community Boards and the general public are desperate for usable data. More importantly, they are desperate for content that will help them make sense of the data, aka an open data curriculum. San Francisco has a series of video guides that teach the general public on how to use their data portal < https://data.sfgov.org/videos >. We would love to see these videos appended to data dictionaries and see other mini-tutorials explaining how to best use the data portal’s functions and how best explore the data.

Growing municipal data standards.

The future of municipal open data does not have one central clearing house processing all of the City’s data and share it with the public. The internet does not work where there is one website servicing all of the world’s information. While we agree that there should be one central catalogue of data resources, we fundamentally feel that Agencies need to own the responsibility in producing high quality datasets and understanding how the public uses its data.

For NYC to be the number one open data practice in the world, it must adopt a practice of establishing data standards, protocols, and coach Agencies to use those standards and protocols. NYC should be exploring open source data sharing tools that give Agencies the flexibility to host their own data and interface directly with the public.

User center data release workflow.

When is comes to improving NYC’s most valuable or most used data sets, we believe that datasets should go through a review process that bakes in public comment. This workflow is modeled after practices used in manufacturing and software development. We call this a user centered data release workflow. This workflow ensures that continuous improvement through public feedback will strengthen data quality and data products.

Enlisting public engagement through the data release process is a key part of every insight previously stated.

What we see’d like to see.

Fundamentally, you cannot cure NYC’s open data future with a particular product but a dedicated practice.

We continue to encourage this Administration and the Council to place a significant investment in a dedicated open data team. This is the only way to ensure the City’s data practice can scale across all City’s agencies.

In an ideal world, we would like to see a Chief Data Officer resourced with a team and dedicated resources to shepherd the city’s data practice, data standards, and outline education best practices. We do not see this office as counter to the current leadership. We see this team as a complementary—a policy, consulting, and product shop. From our research, this office would focus on the following.

Leadership & Standards

  • With the City’s technology and data leadership, draw together agency leaders to ensure data and technology standards produce data as a renewable resource.
  • That technology procurement practices selects systems that allow for data version controls, API driven backends, with modular or open sourced capabilities.
  • That these systems are always available, reliable, consistent, accessible, secure, and flexible to support an agency’s mission.
  • Help agencies perfect a feedback loop around data quality and public comments.
  • Provide leadership to steer the production of citywide data policies and data standards.
  • Ensure public feedback baked into the City’s Technical Standards Manual (TSM).

Technology & Tools

  • Prioritizing large scale data projects in conjunction with data owners.
  • Standardize and automate future dataset dissemination.
  • Sets policies for responsible data systems.
  • Ensures that data reform and modernization–how agencies collect, uses, manages, and shares data–moves toward the stated goal of building “fact-based, data-driven decision-making” programs or policies.
  • Oversees the development and stewardship of data sharing tools that enable agencies to share their own data and collect feedback directly from data users.

Evangelism

  • The evangelism pillar would reach out to the public, industry, academics, and other branches of government to promote data, data services and tools.
  • Inward, this pillar would connect the city’s data managers to world’s best and the brightest to ensure that Agencies are thinking about their best practices.
  • Outward, this pillar would develop collaborations that further development of open data products and services.

Education & Trainings

  • Inward, trainings would cut across agencies teaching and promoting data proficiency skills, geographic information systems, and data tools like MS excel, and R.
  • Outward, this pillar would ensure that specific uses of data are taught and shared across the city. Community boards, institutions, and organizations would serve as a feedback loop to thoroughly define the public’s need for technology, data, and data quality.

While some of these things can be done from the outside, we are at a make or break legacy point. For the City’s open data practice to lead the world, they need to be done from within government.

Thank you for giving us this opportunity to give our story.

The BetaNYC Leadership Team

Download a PDF of testimony

Emily Goldman
Assistant Director of NYC Civic Innovation Fellows Program

The NYC Civic Innovation Fellows Program is empowering NYC’s Community Boards to develop digital and open data practices that are appropriate for the local constituencies they serve. This program is a partnership between the Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, BetaNYC, and Fund for the City of New York. The program is supported by Data & Society Research Foundation and the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics’ goal of making “Open Data for All.”

Welcome Emily Goldman!

Emily joined BetaNYC in 2014 when she was doing fieldwork research in Brooklyn for her Ph.D, and began analyzing changes in Brooklyn’s stock of rent-stabilized buildings. The data had to be extracted from PDF documents, a project which brought her to a BetaNYC “Civic Hacknight” in June 2014. Ever since presenting her work then, she has been an enthusiastic member of BetaNYC’s leadership committee.

Emily believes that recent developments in opening data and in civic technology hold the potential for societal improvement, and she is continuously excited to participate in helping this mission move forward. Co-directing and teaching in the third year of the Civic Innovation Fellowship program is proving to be a very interesting and rewarding first position after her Ph.D.

#BetaTALK – Affordable Housing: Data, Policy, People

Caption: Affordable Housing Panel. Far left - Left to Right Panelists - Caitlyn Brazill, CAMBA; Moses Gates, Regional Plan Association; Emily Goldman, Cornell University & BetaNYC; John Krauss, Carto & Accursed Ware. Far left Moderator: Lucio Tolentino, BetaNYC

Caption: Affordable Housing Panel. Far left – Left to Right Panelists – Caitlyn Brazill, CAMBA; Moses Gates, Regional Plan Association; Emily Goldman, Cornell University & BetaNYC; John Krauss, Carto & Accursed Ware. Far left Moderator: Lucio Tolentino, BetaNYC

 

BetaNYC hosted a lunchtime #BetaTALK discussion at Civic Hall on July 8th, centered on the topic of affordable housing in New York City,  The motivation for the event was to share knowledge about this extremely important and complex topic, to stimulate more collaboration among people who work in this realm, and to inspire members of the Civic Tech community to further their own involvement in it. This #BetaTalk is available in its entirety on the BetaNYC Youtube Channel.

Some Highlights – Find the entire article on Beta.NYC

  • Rent-stabilization represents the backbone of affordable housing in New York City. The number of rent-stabilized units is not 100% certain, but is estimated to be between 800,000 and 1,000,000 units.
  • PLUTO/MapPLUTO is parcel level data containing 83 fields of information per parcel across the city. Shapefile format (MapPLUTO) shows up-to-date building footprints. PLUTO data is available to download per individual borough. SOURCE
  • HPD takes a Housing and Vacancy Survey Report every three years, which has detailed information about affordable units and their residents. SOURCE

A Heartfelt Thank You to Our Panelists!

  • Caitlyn Brazill, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships,  CAMBA @ctbrazill
  • Moses Gates, Director of Community Planning and Design, Regional Plan Association@MosesNYC
  • Emily Goldman, Ph.D Candidate, Cornell University & BetaNYC
  • John Krauss, Hacker in Chief, Accursed Ware, Carto @recessionporn
  • Moderator: Lucio Tolentino, BetaNYC Co-Organizer @lucio_tolentino

 


Events

Find upcoming civic tech events, updated by the community, on talk.Beta.nyc. If you would like your event to appear on The Message, post it on talk.Beta.nyc in the Events Corner!

There are three upcoming events we would like you to know about.

 

NYC Council – Open Data Oversight Hearing – Sep 21

Every year, the City Council hosts an oversight hearing calling on the public to submit their ideas on how to improve the City’s open data practice. Every year, we encourage the city’s open data and civic technology community to give testimony on their user experiences. Our testimony and advocacy has added SEVEN new laws that are improving the City’s open data practice.

If you can’t attend in person, you can watch via the Council’s live stream. If you are coming,join us here.

Transportation Camp – Sep 25 – $25

TransportationCamp NYC 2016 will foster open conversation and collaboration between all parties interested in mobility and the radical changes the near-future promises in transportation.

Registration link

White House Open Data Innovation Summit – Sep 28th

“Please join us for the first-ever White House Open Data Innovation Summit to showcase the power of data in tackling the biggest challenges of our democracy, creating positive change, and strengthening the broader civic community.” See more …

 


Report Back on TreesCount Data Jam 2016

On Saturday, 4 June, NYC Parks hosted its second Data Jam, unveiling NYC’s latest urban forest dataset, the most spatially accurate map of New York City’s street trees ever created. Together with BetaNYC, NYC Parks hosted NYC’s fourth National Day of Civic Hacking event. In total, 196 participants got their first hands-on look at the street tree data that has been collected to date and by the end of the day, 23 projects were conceived and built to compete for six prizes. Read the full summary …

 


BetaTalk NYC 311 Call Center Inquiry Dataset Launch


NYC 311 and DoITT launched a new 311 dataset at the July 7th BetaTalk. This is one of the City’s largest data sets. In this data, you can see how 311 service request calls are triaged. Watch the entire event on BetaNYC Youtube Channel.

 


Get Involved

Find opportunities to connect with the civic tech community at talk.Beta.nyc. If you are looking for help on a project, post the opportunity on talk.Beta.nyc in the Developers Corner or inWorking Groups!
Give feedback on NYC’s proposed geospatial open data standards

Last year, we supported the passage of Local Law 108 of 2015. Earlier this year, we worked with NYC Parks to explore a handful of data formats ensuring human readability and the ability to locate that data. Today, we are excited to support the City’s efforts to gather the widest feedback possible. We encourage everyone to provide feedback and help grow a new data standard. Note, public comments will close on Thursday, September 15th. Provide feedback here!

 

Search Experts! Check Out NGA’s Disparate Data Challenge

“The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) seeks to unearth innovative ways of retrieving and analyzing data in different locations, formats, schemas and interfaces. It recently released an engineering problem on Challenge.gov for participants to demonstrate capabilities that enable access to data with wildly disparate formats, schemas, interfaces and locations.” Get involved!

 

NYC 311 Call Center Inquiry Dataset.

“We’d love to know who is working with this data, how they are using it, and what can be improved.” Get involved!

 


Jobs

Find job opportunities in the civic tech community on talk.Beta.nyc. If you would like your event on The Message, post it on talk.Beta.nyc in the Jobs Corner.

 

Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood looking for a Research and Design Lead

“If you’re an entrepreneurial community-builder with design expertise and a passion for improving the lives of low-income families, you can learn more here…

Civic Hall Labs is hiring: CTO, UX director, and Communications Associate.

“Civic Hall Labs is currently seeking accomplished and civic-minded individuals to join our team. We’re looking for dynamic folks who can appreciate the unique challenges and opportunities of designing and developing technology for public good, and who feel passionate about people-first processes and critical evaluation.” Learn more here…

 


In The News

Touted Bloomberg Anti-Poverty Incubator Sees New Life in De Blasio Era  @GothamGazette

“Data-driven Center for Economic Opportunity paves way for workforce development vision in Career Pathways”

Open gov groups team up on new database of local open data policies  @State_Scoop

The Sunlight Foundation and OpenGov Foundation launched “Open Data Policies Decoded” to help share how cities manage their open data programs.

 


A huge thanks to Lexi Quint for organizing this month’s message!

Affordable Housing: Data, Policy, People

  • Introductory remarks: Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC
  • Moderator: Lucio Tolentino, Co-organizer of BetaNYC; Data scientist and Civic hacker
  • Panelists: Caitlyn Brazill, CAMBA; Moses Gates, Regional Plan Association; Emily Goldman, Cornell U & BetaNYC; John Krauss, Carto & Accursed Ware

Introduction to the Event:

On July 8th BetaNYC hosted a lunchtime discussion at Civic Hall, centered on the topic of affordable housing in New York City, with the four panelists above, moderated by a core BetaNYC organizer, Lucio, and with introductory remarks from Noel.  The motivation for the event was to share knowledge about this extremely important and complex topic, to stimulate more collaboration among people who work in this realm, and to inspire members of the Civic Tech community to further their own involvement in it.

In this write-up, we seek to synthesize and reiterate some of the information that was shared during this discussion, so the work may go on!

Some Key Facts:

  • Rent-stabilization represents the backbone of affordable housing in New York City—the number of units is not 100% certain, and it is also continuously changing (units leave and enter the system), but it is estimated that there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 rent-stabilized units city-wide.
  • Every year, the Rent Guidelines Board, a joint State agency and City authority, sets the allowable rent increase for stabilized units. For the last three years, intense public pressure to halt rising rents has resulted in the RGB setting historically-low allowable percentage increases (ranging from 0% to 2.75% depending on the year and length of the lease.)
  • There are 328 NYCHA developments across the city, with approximately 180,000 units and 400,000 residents.  NYCHA units are not considered part of this rent-stabilized stock, but their rents are also affordable and regulated (by NYCHA and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development–HUD).
  • NYCHA developments were constructed from 1934 through 1974.
  • An additional over 200,000 NYC residents use NYCHA housing vouchers (Section 8) to secure affordable housing in the private market.
  • Approximately 62,000 people sleep in homeless shelters nightly in NYC.
  • Homelessness, evictions, and overcrowding have escalated dramatically in the last decade.
  • The construction of more housing in NYC is considered an important component of any plan to address the current housing crisis.
  • All other things being equal, most communities would prefer NOT to have more housing constructed within their immediate neighborhood boundaries.
  • Approximately 4% of the City’s buildings are landmarked or in historic districts, where new construction is limited by the Landmarks Law.
  • Housing is considered affordable when tenants pay no more than 30% of their income on housing.

Lay of the Land–Data Sources:

PLUTO/MapPLUTO: parcel level data containing 83 fields of information per parcel across the city. Shapefile format (MapPLUTO) shows up-to-date building footprints. Given its large size, PLUTO data is available to download per individual borough. (link)

The ACRIS database, maintained by the Department of Finance, contains several fields of information on all registered transactions (buying, selling, mortgages) on parcels going back several decades. (link)

The Furman Center and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have information about the various tax incentive programs used to incentivize developers to provide affordable housing, and the Department of Finance (DoF) has information about which program may be being used at specific properties.

HPD also takes a Housing and Vacancy Survey Report every three years, which has detailed information about affordable units and their residents. (link) Civic hackers have made it available in csv format: (link)

311 data is available through NYC’s Open Data portal, powered by Socrata, which includes all kinds of reported issues from residents (e.g. lack of heat or hot water). (link)

A great example of Civic tech work using this data: (link)

The Department of Buildings (DoB) has an abundance of data on all work being done on buildings (work done legally requires a DoB permit), as well as DoB violations and Stop Work orders, and whether the building has Landmark status. (link)

The Rent Guidelines Board has a large amount of data on its website, including lists of all buildings per borough that are registered as containing rent-stabilized units.  These lists, however, remain in PDF form. (link)

Civic hackers have scraped and FOILed to get the data in spreadsheet form though. (link)

The American Community Survey, of the U.S. Census, has detailed housing information, including rent, down to the level of the Census Block Group, an area designed to contain between 1,000-4,000 residents. The information is released yearly, but the five-year estimates are the most accurate. (link)

New York State Court System has key information on evictions but it isn’t “open data.” You can find information about the NYS Court System here (link) and Housing Court litigation data from NYC open data portal (link).

Taxbills.nyc—a dataset that panelist John Krauss created, by scraping hundreds of thousands of property tax bills in PDF form, which contains the number of rent-stabilized units per building, dating back to 2007. (link)

 

Some Data Holes / Data What We Want:

  • Real time information on exactly where tenants may be currently experiencing eviction and displacement, leading to homelessness. Best to get to these people before they must turn to the shelter.
  • Updated information on exactly where and how much new affordable housing is being built through the various tax programs created for this reason. This information would supplement our growing understanding of the existing rent-stabilized building stock.
  • More accountable, clearer, and up-to-date information on rents across the City at a highly localized level, since differences can be stark between blocks, buildings, even within buildings.

Concluding remarks:

BetaNYC would like to continue this conversation and help members of the Civic tech community grow their ideas, analyses, and projects on this topic. From many angles, there is a housing crisis in this City that threatens its ability to maintain a diverse range of residents living and working here. We urge you to continue thinking about and working on ways that the Civic tech community can contribute to the City having a healthier and happier relationship to the affordable housing it attempts to provide. We’ll be back in touch soon too, to keep the conversation and the work going.

Since 2013, members of BetaNYC have advocated for the City’s open data to conform to open standards.

Through our work trying to scrape the City Record, we unearthed headaches trying to define what is where. In a city as complex as the one beneath our feet, there are at least three ways to describe that location.

Last year, we supported the passage of Local Law 108 of 2015. Earlier this year, we worked with NYC Parks to explore a handful of data formats ensuring human readability and the ability to locate that data.

Today, we are excited to support the City’s efforts to gather the widest feedback possible. We encourage everyone to provide feedback and help grow a new data standard. Note, public comments will close on Thursday, September 15th.

From MODA’s Post on Draft Standards

For any dataset on the NYC Open Data Portal that includes row-level address fields, agencies must separate locational information into “core address” and “core geospatial reference” attributes. These attributes will appear on the Portal according to a standard column naming convention.

Agencies will be responsible for separating core address information into five standard column fields:

  • “HOUSE NUMBER”
  • “STREET NAME”
  • “APARTMENT NUMBER”
  • “ZIPCODE””
  • “BOROUGH”

Agencies will also be required, with technical guidance from the Open Data team, to include six standard column fields of core geospatial reference information:

  • “LATITUDE”
  • “LONGITUDE”
  • “COMMUNITY BOARD”
  • “COUNCIL DISTRICT”
  • “BIN” (Building Identification Number)
  • “BBL” (Borough-Block-Lot)

Geosupport: We recommend agencies whose datasets do not already contain the six core geospatial reference fields to use Geosupport, a publicly available tool that also serves as the City of New York’s geocoder of record maintained by the Department of City Planning. Core address data entered into Geosupport can return all required core geospatial reference data. Agencies may geocode their locational data at the database level or the extraction level. Alternatively, agencies may elect to have the Open Data team establish an automated feed, in which datasets are passed through an ETL where they are geocoded and uploaded directly to the Portal.

When a dataset is geocoded by Geosupport, its data dictionary must designate which attribute fields were reported directly by the agency, and which attribute fields were created by geocoding in order to meet these standards. Data dictionaries must also include the version number of the geocoder and error rates that result from geocoding. Finally, agencies with datasets that do not have address fields but include other locational data are encouraged, but not required, to populate as many core geospatial reference fields as possible using Geosupport.

 

Press: City, councilman urge feedback on new geospatial open data standards
By MIRANDA NEUBAUER

 

Congrats @nycparks #datajam winners!! NYC #opendata + #nyctreescount + #hackforchange!

Congrats @nycparks #datajam winners!! NYC #opendata + #nyctreescount + #hackforchange!

Event Report Back:

On Saturday, 4 June, NYC Parks hosted its second Data Jam, unveiling NYC’s latest urban forest dataset, the most spatially accurate map of New York City’s street trees ever created. Together with BetaNYC, NYC Parks hosted NYC’s fourth National Day of Civic Hacking event. This is the first time NYC government collaborated with members of NYC’s civic hacker and open data community to host a day-long civic engagement event. For the day, government staffers partnered with tree stewards and community groups, civic technologists, data experts, and designers to help transform the data into actionable insights.

The Data Jam is an extension of NYC Parks’ TreesCount! 2015 participatory mapping campaign to spark and sustain public engagement with NYC’s urban forest through data. Since May 2015, more than 2,500 volunteers have participated in mapping NYC’s street trees. To date, more than 530,000 trees, representing approximately 80% of NYC’s streets, have been mapped as part of the 2015 Street Tree Census.

On Saturday, 196 participants got their first hands-on look at the street tree data that has been collected to date. For the first six months of 2016, NYC Parks worked with TreesCount! Partners and held internal workshops to source problem statements and questions that were used to derive five Data Jam challenges. At the event, the challenges were represented by Parks staff and community stakeholders. Our collective goal was to spend the day building insights for a more equitable urban forest.

The day was broken up into two tracks. Twenty-seven participants engaged in a six hour long workshop teaching them NYC’s open data portal and the nuances of mapping and data exploration, while 144 experienced participants explored the five challenges.

By the end of the day, 23 projects were conceived and built to compete for six prizes.

The event was organized by NYC Parks in partnership with BetaNYC. Support for this event was provided by the Mayor’s Office of Technology + Innovation, NYC Open Data, our host Civic Hall, Microsoft Civic, and CartoDB.

The TreesCount! Data Jam embodies NYC digital priorities such as NYC’s vision for Open Data for All, and the NYC Digital Playbook.

  • Open Data for All laid out two core beliefs – that every New Yorker can benefit from Open Data, and Open Data can benefit from every New Yorker.
  • A central tenet of the NYC Digital Playbook is to foster more collaboration with engaged citizens and civic technologists.
  • Therefore, NYC Parks designed the Data Jam to bring together community members with civic hackers and Parks staff to collaborate on data challenges, and incorporated an Introduction to Open Data workshop for beginners interested in learning to use to Open Data.

Event Metrics

  • Total Participants: 196
  • Data Jammer Participants: 144
  • Workshop Participants: 27
  • Participant Diversity:  45% male / 39% female / 16% unspecified / 1% other
  • Community Group / Public Stakeholder Groups: 5
  • Children in on-site daylong childcare: 7
  • Projects built: 23
  • Winners: 5

The development of a user centered data release workflow.

The most important insights we developed was the evolution of a “user centered data release workflow.” Build off of user centered ideas, we believe that data sets should go through some user testing and like all products fit into a continuous improvement loop.

We’d love to hear your comments on the following three phased user centered data release workflow. Please leave a comment below.

Phase 1: Research & Discovery
• Establish target audiences
• Draft data standards that appeal to broadest possible audience
• Draft data dictionary

Phase 2: User Testing
• Release sample dataset for feedback
• Perform user testing and get feedback on data dictionary & dataset
• Develop a framework and/or guide as how to explore the dataset’s important values
• Allow time for revisions

Phase 3: Initial Deployment
• Upload data set and data dictionary to Portal with an event or video explaining the key features of the data.
• Allow time for user testing on Portal and gather open feedback.
• Share insights and communicate them out to the public. Continue to gather public feedback.

 


 

NYC TreesCount Data Jam Winners:

Challenge 1:
How has NYC’s urban forest changed over time — comparing 1995, 2005, and 2015?

Title of Winning Project: NYGeog’s Maps Over Time NYC Trees Count Data Jam

Description:
Map with dropdown to select tree counts by year, percent change over years, density of trees per square mile and percent change in density of trees per square mile over years

Team Members: Daniel M. Sheehan

Project URL: http://nyctreescountdatajam.github.io/

 

Challenge 2:
How can we visualize Street Tree Census Data to improve our understanding of the urban forest and help educate New Yorkers?

Title of Winning Project: Keeping You Safe From Hazardous Trees

Description:
Website containing heatmaps and bar graphs visualizing tree health as it pertains to the local community.

Team Members: Matt Waldron, Kate Meizner, Mary Burford,

Project URL: http://daftgopher.github.io/hazardous_trees/

 

GRAND PRIZE  + Challenge 3 :
What relationships can be drawn between the Street Tree Census Data and other environmental and economic indicators in New York City?

Title of Winning Project: Impact of Trees on Localized Weather

Description:
The qualitative effect of trees on improving pedestrian comfort is well known and intuitive; a quantitative assessment of the direct benefits of trees on reducing high temperatures and high humidity in their immediate vicinity would provide a valuable tool for reducing the urban heat island effect.

Team Members: Joe Di Dio, Mattia Fumagalli, Nick Culver, Jordan Contract, Bob Muska

Project URL: http://devpost.com/software/blah-pb1unx

 

Challenge 4
How can we use the Street Tree Census Data to more efficiently plan for the long term health and growth of the urban forest?

Title of Winning Project: 311 request costs

Description:
In order to efficiently plan for the long-term health of trees, we wanted to benchmark costs. Using average costs for different work orders, such as pruning, removal, planting, we visualized 311 costs over time.

Team Members: Gerry Song, Kristy Choi, Jean-Ezra Yeung

Project URL: https://dashboards.ly/ua-URzbPELdSRjxfpwzRjH4i4

 

Challenge 5 – TIE:
How can we use Street Tree Census Data to better engage with and target the efforts of community stewardship volunteers to improve the health of the urban forest?

Title of Winning Project: Treezy

Description: “Treezy” is a mobile app for matching users with nearby trees in most need. Users can update stewardship activities and alerts will be personalized and designed to build a connection between people and trees and their needs. Additionally, events can be organized within the app among users in the area.

Team Members: Nazia Parvez, Vianney Brandicourt, Madalena Mak, Bridget Keyes, Melissa Zavala

Project URL: http://bit.ly/24u9q5o

 

Title of Winning Project: When Engagement Works

Description: The goal of this project is to estimate the citywide water absorption that could result from the complete implementation of tree guards. We then provide a recommendation list for a specific community group to construct and install tree guards in their stewardship zones to improve tree health and reduce stormwater runoff.

Team Members: Rob Elliott, Leila Mougoui, Maria Rodriguez, Nandan Shetty,

Project URL: http://bit.ly/1RVIQus

 

 

nycp2469_BusShelter_V3_2_052515_r1

For the third time in the past 20 years, together with our hard-working volunteers and stewards, NYC Parks is conducting a comprehensive inventory of our street trees to improve NYC Parks’ ability to manage our urban forest.

As part of TreesCount! 2015, NYC Parks has engaged with our voluntreers, tree-oriented community groups, and non-profit partners to identify how street tree census data can help improve equitable care of our urban forest. NYC Parks, with the assistance of BetaNYC, has turned this feedback and NYC Park’s own questions into these Data Jam challenges.

Now, we are asking you to help us make sense of the Census! Join us by RSVPing via eventbrite. Childcare and scholarships available.


#1. How has NYC’s urban forest changed over time — comparing 1995, 2005, and 2015?

TreesCount! 2015 is the third decadal effort to completely inventory New York City’s street trees! To date, 530,000 trees, representing approximately 80% of the City’s streets, have been mapped as part of the 2015 census, and NYC Parks is releasing all the data that has been reviewed to date. The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island have all been completed. It is the most spatially accurate street tree dataset New Yorkers have ever seen. We need your help visualizing, comparing, and understanding changes across tree census datasets.

By building maps or visualizations, your goal is to help us begin to understand how changes in our urban forest affect NYC’s neighborhoods.

#2. How can we visualize Street Tree Census Data to improve our understanding of the urban forest and help educate New Yorkers?

The Street Tree Census provides us with a wealth of data. Turning this into useful information through maps and visualizations helps us understand the urban forest. Maps and visualizations can help us build an understanding of this shared resource, and enable data-driven management decisions.

Your goal is to make beautiful maps and visualizations that enable all types of New Yorkers to learn more about our urban forest.

#3. What relationships can be drawn between the Street Tree Census Data and other environmental and economic indicators in New York City?

NYC’s urban forest is an integral component of a healthy and equitable city. Understanding the urban forest’s relationship to the City’s health and economy will help urban forest stakeholders advocate for more resources to build a healthier and equitable city. Understanding these relationships will help demystify our urban forest’s impact.

Your goal is to use tree census data to help us understand our urban forest’s relationship to specific environmental and economic indicators.

#4. How can we use the Street Tree Census Data to more efficiently plan for the long term health and growth of the urban forest?

With the 1995 and 2005 street tree censuses, NYC Parks has been able to catalyze major advances in urban forest management, making science-based operational decisions and quantify the benefits of the urban forest. In addition to understanding patterns in resource distribution and condition over time, long-term urban forest management decisions must consider factors such as climate change, pests, diseases, land use, and species diversity.

Your goal is to help us explore these factors using census data and help us develop strategies to address the future of the urban forest.

#5. How can we use Street Tree Census Data to better engage with and target the efforts of community stewardship volunteers to improve the health of the urban forest?

Trees in urban settings face many challenges from both people and the environment. We believe that tree stewardship by the community is an essential part of achieving our urban forestry goals. Resources for tree care are finite, and so it is important that we better understand tree stewards and the challenges they face, and maximize the effectiveness of our volunteers by supporting their stewardship activity.

Your goal is to explore Street Tree Census data to help develop insights that can measure the impact of stewardship on the health of our urban forest, and help us understand where stewardship efforts are most needed.

To attend the event, you need to RSVP via eventbrite. Childcare and scholarships available.

Support for this event is provided by the Mayor’s Office of Technology + Innovation, NYC Open Data, our host Civic Hall, Microsoft Civic, and CartoDB.

Today, NYC.gov launched a new digital front door. We welcome this experiment known as AlphaLabs, civic tech office hours, and, all the other things that the Mayor’s Office of Digital Strategy is doing to make government more accessible.

ALSO – We love that Alpha.nyc.gov is built on BetaNYC’s award winning ReinventNYC.gov hackathon idea!

reinventnyc

Team BetaNYC’s mockup for ReinventNYC.gov hackathon.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 18.42.57

Today’s launch of Alpha.NYC.gov.

5996554456_2272949a03

Team Appleseed with “Best User Interface” trophy.

Back when we were just a couple of kids and a meetup.com account, a few of us participated in the City’s first hackathon — ReinventNYC.gov.

Our idea was to build a google like interface powered by NYC 311’s inquiry API. We envisioned a super simple, search driven interface.

The more you searched or called NYC 311, the better NYC.gov would get at returning relevant information. NYC.gov would mirror NYC 311’s ambiguity. You didn’t need to know who provided the service. All you needed was a question and we would provide you with relevant results.

With this idea, we won best user interface. Many of the other participants featured similar interfaces. These ideas were so good, many of them are baked into the NYC.gov we know today!

Alpha.nyc.gov is exactly the type of NYC.gov we envisioned a little less than five years ago.

We are happy to see the NYC Digital Playbook be put into action (and follow in the footsteps of NYC Council Labs, the City Council civic hacker SWAT team). As the Mayor’s office has embraced participation and feedback as a fundamental part of Alpha.NYC.gov, we want to see this tool’s core, the code, and product roadmap opened in a way that truly embraces the NYC Digital Playbook.

Now, more than ever, it is important for the alpha.NYC.gov team to stand on the shoulder of giants, embrace the same software development practices embraced by the US Federal Government (and UK, NY State Senate, Code for America).

These software practices are secure, smart, resilient, and they save us money!

The direction is clear. NYC DOITT has already set forth the path with their Citywide-GitHub-Policy (link to the City’s GitHub collection of repos). Now, we need the Mayor’s Office of Digital Strategies to develop the future of NYC.gov for the people, with the people, in an online/offline transparent practice. (Yes, we know they are holding office hours, but that’s not enough. We say that with all the love in the world.)

We congratulate this administration on taking the second step and look forward to working with them as they take the next.

Join us for NYC Parks’ TreesCount! Data Jam!

On Saturday, June 4th, we will unveil NYC’s latest urban forest dataset, the most spatially accurate map of New York City’s street trees. Join NYC Parks, TreesCount! partners, tree care volunteers, and other civic hackers to learn about your urban forest and what impact street trees have on our daily lives.

We are looking for data scientists, statisticians, developers, designers, visualizers, cartographers, and quants. Bring your skills, questions, and creativity to this data jam!

To spark and sustain public engagement, NYC Parks launched the TreesCount! campaign. To date, more than 2,300 New Yorkers have voluntreered helping complete the first comprehensive map of our city’s street trees.

Now, it’s your turn to help us transform the data, gathered thus far, into actionable insights. Whether you are new to hacking or experienced, bring your data expertise and join us for NYC’s first TreesCount! Data Jam and Workshop.

Join us to improve our understanding of and plan for the future our City’s urban forest!

Register via eventbrite and help us plan for the future!

Cost – $10, scholarships available
Date – Saturday, 4 June 2016 from 8:00 am till 6:00 pm
Location – Civic Hall, 156 5th Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY

Support for this event is provided by the Mayor’s Office of Technology + Innovation, NYC Open Data, our host Civic Hall, and CartoDB.

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