BetaNYC is a civic organization dedicated to improving lives in New York through civic design, technology, and data.
We help New Yorkers access information and use technology.
When empowered with modern civic tools, they can hold their government accountable, while improving their economic opportunity.
We want New York’s governments to work for the people, by the people, for the digital era.
Improving lives through civic design, public interest technology, and open data.
- We empower the public with tools, education, and data.
- We demystify government, technology, design, and data with the goal of improving access to services and information.
- We explore a world of possibilities by providing a safe space for individuals and government to collaborate to improve the city.
In 2008, BetaNYC started as the “NYC Open Government” meetup by Hailey Austin Cooperrider. In 2009, we relaunched as the “Open NY Forum” and was co-founded by Philip Ashlock, Hailey Austin Cooperrider, and Noel Hidalgo. In 2013 and after the NY Governor launched the State’s Open Government initiative, aka Open NY, the group was renamed to BetaNYC.
We have evolved to be a key local leader and national partner in public interest technology / civic technology, open data, and open government.
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.
In 2013, the community wrote the People’s Roadmap to a Digital New York City. This document has helped produce several proposed pieces of legislation and seven additional laws.
- individuals are empowered with knowledge and tools to address their community’s problems;
- individuals and communities actively participate in the local governance process;
- community members are seen as trusted collaborators on impactful solutions;
- community based organizations effectively use tools to improve the lives of their clients;
- elected representatives are capable of proactively and effectively communicating with their constituents; government and social services are centered around the constituent;
- government collaborates with community to explore insights and experiment at civic innovation events (i.e. hackathons, datapaloozas, and design camps);
- education, fellowship, and community are combined to provide a ladder of growth, equity, sustainability, and resilience;
- the future is written in collaboration, not for.
The Freedom to Connect represents the idea that access to high-speed bi-directional internet is a prerequisite to full civic participation. Economic growth, job creation, educational opportunities, public safety, digital government services, and access to affordable health care depend on affordable and fast connectivity. In 1932, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt emphasized the right of communities to provide their own electricity. Today, communities need infrastructure for high speed universal access.
The Freedom to Learn is the ideal that unrestricted access to knowledge, institutions, code, algorithms, data, and tools, regardless of place of birth, ability, language, identity, age, faith, or income, is essential to an empowered and educated public.
The Freedom to Innovate is central to the advancement of communities and knowledge. Innovation is vital to the development of a complex, dynamic, and thriving civil society. This City’s heritage is rooted in sharing the land, air, and sea. We need laws and policies that place people before profit, provide for universal economic opportunity, protect the commons, and allows for innovation.
The Freedom to Collaborate stands for the ideal that participatory democracy is not centralized. Regardless of status and interface, we must have the ability to engage with our government, wherever and whenever. We must have the power to effect change and be a government by the people, for the people.
Funders & Collaborators
BetaNYC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization via The Fund for the City of New York’s partner project program. All donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law; our Federal ID / EIN number: 13-2612524. We would appreciate your donation.
We have received funding and support from Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Fund for the City of New York, New York City Council, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Microsoft Civic, Data and Society Research Institution, Blue Ridge Foundation, Mozilla, Socrata, Accela, Carto, NYC Media Lab, Datapolitan, Ontodia, and private donors.
BetaNYC was a member of the Code for America Brigade community and we are honored to have worked with the following organizations: Reinvent Albany, CUNY, New America, Cornell Tech, Office of the Public Advocate, New York City Council, New York Tech Meetup, Civic Hall, Coalition for Queens, Dev Bootcamp, OpenPlans, Silicon Harlem, NYC Digital, NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, NYC’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, NYC 311, NYC Parks, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of Education, NYC Department of Health, and many others.
Leadership & Staff
Noel Hidalgo (he/him) – Executive Director
Mr. Hidalgo stands at the crossroads of technology, government, community, and impact. He believes in participatory communities and uses technology to improve people’s lives. His work has been achieved through patience and organizing problem-solving teams. Mr. Hidalgo is known as an effective organizer who can walk between worlds.
Since 2008, he has organized BetaNYC to be a driving force to improve New York City’s use of technology and share its data. BetaNYC has advocated for a suite of government transparency laws, including the city’s transformative open data law and city record online law. BetaNYC runs the New York City Civic Innovation Lab/Fellows program, in partnership with the Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, and curates the NYC School of Data community conference.
Mr. Hidalgo is an Eagle Scout. He was a Technology and Democracy fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation; served as an inaugural member of Code for America’s National Advisory Council, and is a former fellow / currently an affiliate at Data & Society Research Institution.
You can reach him at noel(-at-)beta(-d0t-)nyc or on twitter at @noneck.
Kate Nicholson (she/her) — Director of Partnerships, Programs and Events
Kate has a MFA in Design for Social Innovation from School of Visual Arts and a BA in Economics from Tufts University where she also minored in Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies. A native New Yorker and an avid traveler, Kate identifies as a global and local citizen. When she is not spending her time with great people doing what she loves at the office, she is engaged with the civic tech and design communities in NYC or discovering a new corner of the city. She invites new perspectives and is always up for a or a.
You can contact her at kate(-at-)beta(-d0t-)nyc and on twiter at @katehnicholson.
Jazzy Smith (she/her) — Civic Innovation Fellowship Director
Jazzy is a teacher, a community builder, and an artist. She has a wealth of institutional knowledge, from the inner workings of academia, to the K-12 education system, to nonprofits, and the art world. She knows how operations feel and look on the ground and how important it is to have working systems that prioritize equity and people. Jazzy is unique for her diverse experience, her talent for building welcoming communities, and her commitment to ensuring all voices are heard. She believes asking questions can change the world, more than merely having answers. She rejects the notion that to engage with data, one must have certain credentials or particular educational and professional backgrounds, specific “personalities”, and the myths go on. The next leg of her journey at BetaNYC is to demystify open data and make it accessible to all New Yorkers through our lab’s curriculum.
Jazzy loves horror movies, her friends, making healing a reality, and all cheeses. You can contact her at jazzy(-at-)beta(-d0t-)nyc.
Ashley Louie (she/her) — Chief Technology Officer
Ashley is a designer and civic technologist, who works at the intersection of data visualization, geospatial analysis, and interactive storytelling. With a background in urban design and architecture, Ashley is deeply interested in working to improve the public realm and the built environment. Through her previous work experience at the MIT Civic Data Design Lab, Ashley has designed and developed projects that involve data analysis and visual communication of information in innovative and creative ways. Ashley holds a Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University, where she was awarded the GSAPP Visualization Award and contributed to data visualization research through the Center for Spatial Research.
Ashley enjoys exploring new places, getting lost in art, and crafting personal projects. You can contact her at ashley(-at-)beta(-d0t-)nyc.
Erik Brown (he/him) — Civic Innovation Lab Manager
Erik’s educational background in Computer Science, American Studies, and Data Science, at Fordham University uniquely blends tech expertise with urban systems understanding. He’s passionate about the role of data in shaping urban policy and advocacy. His senior thesis used machine learning to analyze the online and offline activism dynamics of Occupy Wall Street.
Starting as a Civic Innovation Lab Associate at BetaNYC, he now works as the Lab Manager. Erik’s diverse experiences range from a Strategy Consultant Internship at IBM to mentoring young researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he developed skills managing teams and communicating data science ideas. He was also an intern on Mark Levine’s successful campaign for Manhattan Borough President.
Erik’s mission is to democratize data and AI tools and use them as catalysts for positive change in New York City.
Email < erik (-at-)beta(-d0t-)nyc >, for your data needs.
Civic Innovation Apprenticeship Program Members
Apprentices join our staff as part-time consultants. They are past and present CUNY students who, in their fellowship year with us, demonstrated professional abilities in communicating effectively, managing tasks independently, and acquiring and applying skills from our civic analyst bootcamp. They are ideal candidates for continued civic service work because of who they are and what they have gained from working on projects with us that support Manhattan Borough President Office and Community Board operations.
Apprentices are critical to our mission. Apprentices support community boards’ adoption of new technologies and practices, like airtable, google docs, and virtual meeting platforms like WebEx and Zoom. They help our lab refine prototypes and develop new processes. They solve small and complex problems that come to us as Research and Data Assistance Requests (RADARs).
Gabrielle Langston (she/her) – Civic Innovation Apprentice
Gabrielle (better known as Gabby) graduated from New York City College of Technology in July 2020 with a BS in Applied Mathematics, and is currently pursuing a MS in Data Analysis and Visualization at the CUNY Graduate Center. She was previously a Civic Innovation Fellow with BetaNYC and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, where she was a member of the 6th cohort class.
Gabby is passionate about data transparency and its role in creating a more fair, unified, and equal world for all. She is a native Brooklynite, and a city lady at heart. In her spare time, she enjoys tennis, watching (and reading!) Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 version), being a cat mom, and cooking arroz con pollo with maduros.
You can email her at < gabby(-at-)beta(-dot-)nyc >.
Dimitri Mimy (he/him) – Civic Innovation Apprentice
Dimitri graduated in June 2021 from Queens College with BSs in Biology and Psychology and is currently pursuing an MS in biology, with a focus on urban ecology, continuing at Queens College. He is also an alumni of the 8th cohort of the Civic Innovation Fellow Program with BetaNYC and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.
Drawing in part from his time as a BetaNYC civic innovation fellow, Dimitri is passionate about the intersection of open data, environmental justice, and accessibility, and in learning more about how biological life exists in an urban context. He enjoys visiting green spaces in the city, and also finds leisure in reading, watching his favorite shows, and surfing the interwebs!
You can email him at < dimitri(-at-)beta(-dot-)NYC >.
Nicholas He (he/him) – Civic Innovation Apprentice
Nicholas is a former Civic Innovation Fellow from the ninth cohort, and a recent graduate from New York City College of Technology with a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Systems. He also holds an A.A.S. in Computer Information Systems from Borough of Manhattan Community College.
After completing BetaNYC’s Civic Innovation Fellowship, he developed a huge passion for open data and wants to use it to help our local community. Nicholas also loves to play basketball in NYC public parks with his friends.
You can email him at < nicholas(-at-)beta(-dot-)NYC >.
Leadership Committee (Volunteers)
Lauren Rennée (she/her)
Lauren approached BetaNYC in 2014 with the simple question, “how do I become a civic-hacker?” and has since volunteered her time supporting education initiatives and planning special events. She has been working hard to carve a space for non-coders in the civic tech community, insisting that everyone has a role in the fight for government transparency and greater data-literacy. Lauren has a deep appreciation for open data and uses it every day working as an Urban Planner at BFJ Planning, where she specializes in transportation planning. The values and design principles fostered within the civic tech community have made her a more responsible professional, effective advocate, and engaged citizen. She is thankful for the opportunity to work with government and community partners to address quality of life issues through human-centric design.
Tim McDermott (he/him)
Tim retired from a 35 year career in IT in June 2014. After 6 months of “leisure” time, he stumbled upon a posting by Noel Hidalgo about a BetaNYC hacknight in downtown Manhattan. As a result of that meeting, he was hooked. Since most of his career centered around data and data management, he contributed by scraping the Compstat data from the PDF files posted on the NYPD web site and uploading to the BetaNYC web site.
He also attended the NYC DOT Open data forum in April 2015 where someone asked about historical road speed data. After some investigations and some “civic hacking” there is now more than one year’s worth of 5 minute interval observations data available.
In addition he is working with some civic minded individuals on Long Island to spread the word on Open Data and is also working on an Election Data visualization map for Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Zhi Keng He (he/him)
Mr. He graduated in the spring of 2019 from Hunter College with a BA in Geography, and has two years of experience as a college aid at the NYC Department of Transportation. During his time there, he has built many applications and visualizations to assist planners and other decision makers; and wrote scripts to manage and process various city data sets. He was also a Public Service Scholar, worked in the MBPO policy team, and a Civic Digital Fellow at the US Census Bureau.
Zhi He served as BetaNYC’s inaugural lab manager, and helped institute our RADAR service. He enjoys building projects to improve the accessibility and engagement of public data to communities and students.