NYC Civic Innovation Lab & Fellows

CIF Y3 Students at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office with Borough President staff, 2016

The NYC Civic Innovation Lab & Fellows Program is empowering NYC’s Community Boards to develop digital and open data practices that are appropriate for the local constituencies they serve. 

The Civic Innovation Lab (CIL) and Civic Innovation Fellowship (CIF) is the first and only comprehensive program dedicated to improving community boards’ use of data and technology while training the next generation of civic leaders from CUNY. Incubated out of the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, with support from the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics & CUNY Service Corps, CIL employs three technological researchers and a small class of qualified CUNY Service Corps students, aka CIF.

For a period of seven months, CUNY Service Corp Fellows, selected for competency in a variety of relevant skills, are trained in the fundamentals of civic technology, data, and design. After this boot camp training, graduates are partnered into innovation teams who explore projects with Manhattan’s twelve Community Boards. At the same time, staff continuously investigates community board workflows, develops and deploys digital and data literacy trainings, and creates tools for boards and borough president liaisons.

This program is a partnership between the Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, BetaNYC, CUNY Service Corps, and Fund for the City of New York. The program is supported by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Data & Society Research Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, and New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

As of Spring 2020, our program has trained and employed 60 CUNY students, seven have been selected for mentorship positions and were employed for two years, and over 1,000 New Yorkers have been trained using this curriculum’s core classes.

“I have long been committed to open access to government data. As a City Council member, I was proud to sponsor NYC’s Open Data Law, which unlocked a treasure trove of data about our streets, crime, restaurant inspections, and other information gathered by city agencies.But that law was only the first step, as “open” data doesn’t automatically mean “useful” data.

“That’s why I am welcoming student members of the CUNY Service Corps to my office. These members will help both our office and our Community Boards navigate City data so that New Yorkers can use the data in meaningful ways.

“In July 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the first round of NY CUNY 2020 awards, providing $55 million to fund innovative projects that connect academic excellence with entrepreneurship. One of those projects brings these students to my office – an expansion in CUNY’s capacity for data analytics and visualization.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer

“We are so proud to welcome these students. With their expertise, we’ll be able to not just retrieve and access vital City information, but also create ways to visualize it – through spreadsheets, graphs, neighborhood mapping, and other organizational means – and get it to our Community Board chairs, district managers, and committee chairs. This way, our Boards can make informed decisions about planning, development, and land-use, armed with data on everything from demographics, to number of school seats, to safety statistics, and so on.”

Aldrin Rafael Bonilla, Deputy Borough President

“When BetaNYC was invited to run the Civic Innovation Fellowship program, it was a true honor to participate in Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s vision of increasing the usefulness of open data. We enjoyed the past four years of working with the Borough President’s Office, Manhattan community boards, and the CUNY Service Corps. We look forward to four more years of partnership.

Our program has created NYC’s first open data training program. We co-created BoardStat, an open data dashboard for community boards built by community boards, and have outlined a number of strategies to help bring modern, agile tools to community boards.

Together we are bringing experience, passion, and innovation into one unique government program.”

Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC

To explore partnership opportunities, email cif at beta dot nyc






  • Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director
  • Vacant, Fellowship Director
  • Zhi Keng He, Lab Manager


Class of 2021-2022 (8)

Five of our 2022 fellows infront of the municipal building.

Kevin Chen
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice

Syeda Tonni
New York City College of Technology, Computer Systems Technology

Richard Batista
Queens College, Biology

Nariah Greene
Queens College, English

Dimitri Mimy
Queens College, Masters in Biology

Rosario Diaz Salgado
Queens College, Computer Science

Lizbeth Jima (Fall & Spring)
Queens College, Masters of Data Analytics and Applied Social Research

Abdul Wahab (Fall & Spring)
Queens College, Computer Science

Class of 2021 (7)

Fellows giving their presentations on zoom.

Kiona Barnes
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology

Avi Severino
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics

Sarah Park
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminology

Vansh Sharma
LaGuardia Community College, Programming And Systems

Joseph Liu  
New York City College of Technology, Data Science

Aaryan Nair
New York City College of Technology, Mechanical Engineering

*Onedeige James

*Gabrielle Langston

*Srijana Tamang

* Previous fellows brought back as apprentices.

Summer Class of 2020 (6☀️)

Kasandra Carabello
Bronx Community College, Psychology

Mir Afra Humaira
Borough of Manhattan Community College, Computer Science

Sabrina Rivera
Macaulay Honors College at Lehman, Psychology and Education

*Ameen Alhubaishi

*Ishrat Chowdhury

* Previous fellows brought back as mentors or fellows.

Class of 2019 – 2020 (6)

Handful of the Civic Innovation Fellows 2019
A few of the Civic Innovation Fellows 2019 outside the Municipal Building

Murat M. Akaydin
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Masters of Public Administration

Nikki Prascak
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology

Ameen Alhubaishi
LaGuardia Community College, Mechanical Engineering

Onedeige James
LaGuardia Community College, Environmental Science

Mohammad Chowdhury
New York City College of Technology, Computer System Technology

Gabrielle Langston
New York City College of Technology, Applied Mathematics

Stephanie Lovett
New York City College of Technology, Applied Mathematics

Srijana Tamang
Queens College, Computer Science

Guohua Zhang
Queens College, Computer Science

*Ishrat Chowdhury

*Ahnaf Tazwar

* Previous fellows brought back as mentors.

Class of 2018 – 2019 (5)

CUNY Service Corps / Civic Innovation Fellows at NYC School of Data. 2018 – 2019 cohort.

Amy Montero
Queens College

Anderson Ceus
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Jennifer J Maldonado
Queens College

Jimmol J Singh
New York City College of Technology

Kevin Trujillo
Lehman College

Ochanya Itodo
College of Staten Island

Anita Vaesalius Jiang (Wen Jiang)
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Boubacar Barry
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Herlande Jasmin
John Jay College of criminal Justice

Ishrat Chowdhury
Queens College

Ahnaf Tazwar
New York City College of Technology

Charles Amofordjuoh
Medgar Evers College

Class of 2017 – 2018 (4)

CIF Y4 CUNY Service Corps Civic Innovation Fellows with Borough President Gale Brewer and BetaNYC directors Noel Hidalgo and Emily Goldman, 2017.

Kamilah Hayes-Lewis, Sophomore
College of Staten Island, Computer Science

Karina Ibragimova, Junior
Queens College, Computer Science

Sonia Marinovic, Senior
Macaulay Honors College, Economics

Nazija Akter, Sophomore
Macaulay Honors College, Computer Science & Urban Studies

Federico Toscano, Senior
Queens College, Computer Science

Mina Habib, Junior
College of Staten Island, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Lili Izquierdo, Senior
Queens College, Political Science & Economics

Shovan Bala, Junior
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, International Criminal Justice

Ramesh Beharry, Junior
Queens College, Economics

Class of 2016 – 2017 (3)

CIF Y3 Students at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office with Borough President staff, 2016

Abdul Malik Muftau
John Jay College, Criminal Justice

Isaac Pulatov
Queens College, Mathematics

Lester Barrett
Medgar Evers College, Computer Information Systems

Martin Park
John Jay College, Fraud Examination & Finance Forensics

Shofiqur Rahman
The City College of New York, Computer Science

Shrijana Ghimire
New York City College of Technology, Computer Systems

*Bruna Jermann
Queens College, Finance and Accounting

*Eli Rivera
John Jay College, Computer Science and Information Systems

*Muhammad Aslam
City Tech College, Telecommunications

*Shalom Joseph
John Jay College, Computer Science and information Systems

* YEAR 2 students brought back as mentors.

Class of 2015 – 2016 (2)

CIF Y2 Students at Data and Society Research Institute with Borough President Gale Brewer, Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla, danah boyd, Ph.D., and Noel Hidalgo, 2015.

Muhammad Aslam
New York City College of Technology, Telecommunications

Thierno Bah
New York City College of Technology, Computer Science

Ibrahima Barry
New York City College of Technology, Computer Science

Bruna Jermann
Queens College, Finance & Accounting

Shalom Joseph
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Computer Science and Information Systems

Xiaolong Li
Lehman College, Computer Science

Tammoya Moore
New York City College of Technology

Eli Rivera
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Class of 2014 – 2015 (1)

CIF Y1 Students at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office with Borough President Gale Brewer, 2014

Islamia Adjibi
Borough of Manhattan Community College, Business Administration

Frank Cabral
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice & Corrections

Leon Clarke Jr.
Medgar Evers College, Business

Irasa Davis
Borough of Manhattan Community College, Human Services

Johnny Derogene
John Jay College, Political Science & Philosophy

Shrouk Ghanem
Kingsborough Community College, Psychology

Ali Haxhijaj
John Jay College, International Criminal Justice & Political Science

Massiel Jerez
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Marline Paul
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminology

Gloria Rodriguez
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice & Political Science


Community Boards are New York City’s local, volunteer representative bodies. Established by the 1963 City Charter, they oversee land use issues, budget recommendations, and local service delivery. Though this project, BetaNYC and Data & Society, in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer (MBPO) and CUNY Service Corps (CUNY-SC), seek to empower Community Boards in the rapidly changing digital environment. MBPO recognizes the unique potential for data and technology to improve the way that municipal government interacts with its constituents. Human centered design principles and updated tools will extend the relevance of Community Boards in a political environment where a variety of stakeholders, such as real estate developers, are already digitally empowered. This project attempts to level the playing field to enable better decision making.

In 2014, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) brought in CUNY Service Corp Fellows to expose Community Boards to open data practices. This first, successful iteration of the program lasted six months. While students learned about Community Boards, Community Boards learned they wanted to know more. When the MBPO reviewed the program, it recognized the need for assistance in curriculum development as well as for a partner in managing the program.

In the fall of 2014, Noel Hidalgo came to a similar conclusion: New York City’s relationship to open data would be improved by a concerted effort to expand the knowledge and availability of open data practices to as wide a variety of community based organizations as possible. Towards this end, Hidalgo has been collaborating with Pratt University to develop a six-hour long workshop to demystify the process of map making and the flow of data from NYC’s open data portal.

This project combines the competencies and resources of MBPO, BetaNYC, and Fund for the City of New York, in an effort to demonstrate the potential for digitally driven communities at the hyperlocal level.


2015 Fellows learning media theory and service design.

Build and execute a community development curriculum that integrates civic design, technology, data, and leadership. The curriculum provides a foundation for community members to use their technical skills to support community boards and develop personal leadership, engage in the civic technology ecosystem, and hone digital skills.

Curriculum’s Audience

Someone who is comfortable with a computer, digitally literate with Google docs or Microsoft Office, has access to high speed internet, and a desire to address problems with technology, data, or design.


  • We are testing multifaceted assumptions that cut across government operations, public civic engagement, and open data education.
  • It is possible to build a technology, design, and data curriculum that improves community engagement.
  • There are shared digital inclusion practices that can be replicated across community boards.
  • Municipal data education can be broken down into bite sized chunks.
  • We can successfully deliver a simplified civic technology education to a broad age group.
  • CUNY-SC are primarily lower economic status students who are the City’s future civil service employees and we believe they will carry these skills forward through their careers (longitudinal study needed to assess this).
  • Using a lean model, college level technologists, with the assistance of full-time professionals, can improve Manhattan Community Boards’ information flows.
  • Once trained, Community Board Members and Managers can support each other’s data needs.

Selected Highlighted Topics:

  • Building individual capacity.
  • Creating safe spaces for all.
  • Understanding existing governmental structures and processes.
  • Human Centered Design.
  • Digital communication skills and traditional media engagement.
  • Broadening digital participation.
  • Designing with multiple perspectives and with underserved communities.
  • Understanding Data and making Government data work for communities.
  • Making maps.


We have broken down content into something easily understandable for anyone new to digital civic literacy, open source, civic hacking, and mobile development. The following is what an ideal multi-year curriculum would look like.

Being a good neighbor

  • NYC Government Structure
  • How to participate and join your Community Board & NYPD Precinct Community Councils
  • How to testify at a City Council Hearing or Agency HearingIMG_6563
  • How to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request

Welcome to Civic Technology

  • What is Civic Technology
  • Getting started in Civic Hacking
  • Roots, values, and the future.
  • What is open data and open government?
  • A civic hackers guide to Google
  • An introduction to open source licensing, copyleft, creative commons, and copyright.

Civic & Service Design

  • What is Civic and Service Design?
  • Human Centered Design
  • Intro to Civic & Service Design
  • Building “With, not for…” and the fight for Social / Digital Justice

Open Source Foundations

  • Beginners Guide to Open Source
  • Three key elements that define every open source project
  • Getting started with GitHub
  • Things newcomers to open source rarely ask but often wonder
  • Key Books to Read and Open Source Organizations

Application Fundamentals

  • Building apps for a complex world
  • Getting started in android development
  • How the internet works, mesh networking, and onion Routing
  • Harnessing / maximizing cloud based software

Digital Security and Networked Privacy

  • Encrypt all the bits, an introduction to mobile security
  • How to Key Sign and perform identity management
  • How to communicate via safe and secure channels

Team and Project Management

  • How to use Slack, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) & other group chatting tools.
  • The story of self and motivating a movement
  • Top five open source project management tools
  • Five ways to boost community engagement
  • Getting Commitment, conflict resolution, & de-escalation
  • Building Relationships
  • How to host a hackathon
  • First Aid and basic CPR skills

Open Data

  • Big data, small data, and the open data movement
  • Open Data Management (OKFN)
  • Using Data and “Data Wrangling”
  • Data Biases and data for good
  • Open Data Portal
  • Web Apps

Mapping and Cartography

  • The wonderful world of maps
  • Online Mapping Tools (i.e. Intro to Google Maps, Google Earth, and CartoDB)
  • Beginners’ guide to OpenStreetMap.
  • Introduction to Geographic Data Formats
  • Introduction to QGIS
  • Maps and Mapping Tools