Jackson-Heights-balcanized.pngJackson Hts., New York, January 1, 2013 - What impact might our new digital infrastructure have upon our city’s neighborhoods? For the past few years we’ve cataloged some of the benefits that might arise from thoughtfully allocated and locally controlled neighborhood websites on our dotNeighborhoods wiki pages.

But over the past few months, with the city having submitted an application and begun moving toward the activation of the .nyc TLD, we’ve not received the assurances we expected about city hall’s plans for neighborhood networks, i.e., give residents the opportunity to self govern their neighborhoods as they have historically. Indeed, unofficially, we’ve been told that they will not be following our recommendations and the neighborhood domain names will be sold off with a bottom line perspective, not civic betterment.

So let’s explore the impact that action might have on my favorite neighborhood, Jackson Heights. Today there are a dozen or so sites that currently serve our neighborhood’s needs, have served them and are reorganizing, or are preparing to enter the fracas of local media.

The Many Jackson Heights’
 JacksonHeightsLife.com  JHBG.org
 JHGreen.org  jhdogs.ning.com/
 Queens7.com  JacksonHeights.NYDailyNews.com
 NYTimes.com/JacksonHeights  JacksonHeights.Patch.com
 JacksonHeights.Neighborly.com  Google.com/JacksonHeights
 JacksonHeights.EveryBlock.com  JacksonHeights.NewYork.craigslist.com
 YP.com/JacksonHeights  iwantmorefood.com/the-jackson-heights-food-group/

And under the current “unofficial” plan we could add JacksonHeights.nyc to that list, along with sites such as WesternJacksonHeights.nyc, NorthJacksonHeights.nyc, The BetterJacksonHeights.nyc, TouristJacksonHeights.nyc, MyJacksonHeights.nyc, DiversityPlaza.nyc, HistoricJacksonHeights.nyc, etc.

How do residents locate and communicate with one another in such a digitally balkanized neighborhood? Where is the center of our neighborhood when there’s an emergency, an opportunity, or a joyous event we want to share? How do we network over dozens of sites?

It’s long been my view that a central point of contact was critical to the existence of an inclusive and livable neighborhood. Especially in an ethnically and culturally diverse place like Jackson Heights, its vital that we avoid cubbyholes that fester about problems that “they” are causing. We need a central local, a town hall, a public square, a forum, a bulletin board where information is posted and important ideas exchanged.

This is not to imply that all these current sites should not continue as the .nyc TLD comes to life. Indeed, there’s no way to prevent a plethora of sites. And perhaps most importantly, it’s vital that we have a multiplicity of sites to serve our needs. One solution might be a simple blogroll on an “official” JacksonHeights.nyc.

So let me start 2013 with a plea to our officials in city hall: We’re reaching out to the 38 other global cities that have applied for their TLDs to determine how they are using their historic neighborhood names. We suspect our research will steer the city toward empowering our historic neighborhoods, making them a key building block of our new digital civic infrastructure. City hall should wait for our research results before adopting an allocation policy for our dotNeighborhoods.

Wikimedia-DC-July-2012a.jpg Washington D.C., July 12, 2012 - Connecting.nyc Inc. (CnI) today announced the start of a pilot project supporting the organization’s dotNeighborhoods initiative. The pilot will focus on the development of a local media center serving the Jackson Heights neighborhood of New York City. With an active, civicly engaged population, perhaps the most culturally diverse population in the city, as well as the location of the organization’s home, the neighborhood is seen as providing a rich opportunity to discover the capacity of a locally controlled and operated media center to address the needs of a typical city neighborhood.

The announcement was made on a Local Wikis panel at Wikimania 2012, the annual meeting of the Wikimedia Foundation, publisher of Wikipedia, Wiktionary and other collaborative resources. The panel, organized and moderated by the U.S. Department of State, had representatives from several innovative local wiki projects: CnI’s director, Thomas Lowenhaupt, John Cummings of the U.K.’s Monmouthpedia, Richard Knipel of Wikimedia-NY, Philip Neustrom of Local Wiki, and Frank Muraca of Fairfaxpedia.

During his presentation Mr. Lowenhaupt described the experience gained from the NYCwiki.org project, a collaboration with the New York Internet Society and Wikimedia-NY. He described how 322 of the city’s 354 neighborhoods had been activated by users entering local information, wiki style.  

Mr. Lowenhaupt’s presentation outlined a pilot project for the Jackson Heights neighborhood that would offer four resource layers:  

  • Wiki - The great lesson from NYCwiki.org, the collaboration between CnI, Wikimedia-NY, and the New York Internet Society was that the public can be a willing contributor to local media projects. The neighborhood wiki will provide residents with the opportunity to preserve a community memory of events, resources, problems, opportunities, etc., providing a history to guide discussions about the neighborhood’s future.
  • Official Information - Information about the physical and institutional neighborhood: population, government services, places, maps, education and cultural resources, etc.
  • Communications - Providing a capacity to reach out and connect with neighbors using the latest digital media. In addition to an evolving stat-of-the-art Internet presence, this is to include outreach, education on the use of the wiki, computer recycling, and the location of public access points at libraries, schools, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.
  • Decision Making - A capacity to facilitate discussions, guide decisions and engagement with the neighborhood’s future.

The project’s initial outreach effort will take place on Sunday, July 22, 2012 at a Town Hall Meeting on 78th Street in Jackson Heights (between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue). Staff and volunteers from Connecting.nyc will explain the goals and purposes of the project to Town Hall participants, and request that residents begin to load information on the projects site.

Over the next several months CnI will be selecting resources, including a domain name, to facilitate a transition from the NYCwiki.org site to the JacksonHeights.nyc address, expected to be released in 2014. Information about the dotNeighborhood initiative is available on our wiki. Those interested in following or contributing to the minute by minute development of the JacksonHeights.nyc pilot should watch here.  (Image by Patti: L to R, John Cummings, Richard Knipel, Thomas Lowenhaupt, Philip Neustrom, and Frank Muraca.)

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

old-bicycle.jpg Jackson Hts., New York, May 9, 2012 - Need some relaxation after Internet Week? We’ve got just what you need. So pump up your bike’s tires, grab you cell, and join us in Mapping City Neighborhoods on Saturday, May 19 between 8 AM and 4 PM - after a busy Internet Week.

To participate you need a neighborhood map, a bike, and a cell phone with the New York Times Labs’ OpenPaths app installed. With those in hand you’ll be ready to bike around the perimeter of your neighborhood and then send us the data file - while getting healthy. See the details here.

Our Mapping City Neighborhoods initiative is a key part of our effort to create media centers in New York City’s neighborhoods upon the arrival of the .nyc TLD in 2013. We’ve big dreams for the new dotNeighborhoods - Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, DonganHills.nyc, Edgewater.nyc, Flushing.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, Harlem.nyc and 346 others - and maps are a important part.

We thank Internet Week  for helping us promote the event and the OpenPaths project for helping us gather the digital data. Start here to a healthier you and city.

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

old-bicycle.jpgJackson Heights, New York, April 30, 2011 - We’re encouraging all neighborhood lovers to participate in our Mapping the Hood biking event on Saturday, May 21, 8 AM to 1 PM. See details.

Mapping the Hood was conceived as a healthful and fun mapping initiative to define and empower New York City’s neighborhoods. To participate, Bikers will activate the My Tracks app on their Android phones, slip the phone in their backpack, circumnavigate their neighborhood (perhaps adding some ID pins of landmarks), them email the My Tracks file to us. (Some other phone and GPS map files are acceptable, see the wiki for details.)

The maps will initially be displayed on NYCwiki.org, our dotNeighborhoods development site. Later, with the activation of the .nyc TLD, they will be used in support of the city’s neighborhoods in sites such as Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, Chelsea.nyc, Douglaston.nyc, Egbertville, Flatbush.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, HighBridge.nyc…

Bikers are to email their map files to maps@connectingnyc.org and to tweet their accomplishment to @MappingTheHood. You might also invite others and comment on your desired ‘hood on the the Mapping the Hood Facebook page.

For the latest news and details, see our Mapping the Hood wiki page.

Mapping the Hood is part of Transportation Alternatives’ 2011 Bikemonth. See our announcement there as well as other great riding opportunities.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Filed April 29th, 2011 under Neighborhoods, games, GIS, Civics, Volunteers


CityofWaterDay.jpgGovernors Island, New York, July 24, 2010 - Connecting.nyc Inc. hosted a table at the City of Water Day Festival on Governors Island today. The event, organized by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, is “a day of entertainment, education, and adventure for all to celebrate the potential of our waterfront.”

Our decision to participate in City of Water Day was influenced by two “name” events. The first was reading a New York Times story about a woman complaining that the Bronx River and other city water bodies were either not identified accurately or at all on the new subway map.

The Times story brought to mind a comment that Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry of East Elmhurst made several years ago at a public hearing. A developer had requested the community board’s OK to remove a huge boulder that stood in the way of a proposed new hotel near LaGuardia Airport. Jeffrion, nearly three score at that point, noted that a stream passed the beloved boulder when he was a kid (Killy Pond they called it) into which he and his friends would jump.

These two water-name events led us to think about how city water bodies could be further identified and developed with good domain names, like BronxRiver.nyc. So we set up our table on a most glorious day and asked City of Water Day celebrants on Governors Island to provide names of  city water resources that we might reserve. See our City of Water Names wiki page for the responses we received and where you enter other water names. Of the many names offered, everyone’s favorite was Dead Horse Cove.

If we can think of a more engaging presentation we might again table next year. But it was a gem of an event and those manning the table agreed that more-fun less-work should be the rule for City of Water Day 2011. For example, did you ever think about riding on a fire boat while it shoots its water cannons? City of Water Day provides the opportunity to fulfill such youthful dreams. Look for me on the fire boat next summer.

Filed August 16th, 2010 under GIS, Domain Names, Sustainable Cities, Education

neighborhood.JPGNew York, February 21, 2010 - We had our fourth meeting on dotNeighborhoods, gathering at the Neighborhood Preservation Center on January 26. The meeting report and some photos of the attendees are now available.

The meeting began with a project overview from Connecting.nyc Inc.’s (CnI) executive director, followed by a report from the Hunter College Urban Affairs Workshop on their “Case Study: Neighborhoods in a Digital Era.” Their research focused on three areas: Identity, Content, and Governance. Read Hunter’s Executive Summary and download the full document details from here.

Discussion followed with many suggestions and opinions expressed. As the meeting neared its conclusion, it was noted that while city hall has seen the wisdom of reserving the neighborhood domain names, it was not clear, should the current direction prevail, what it will take to have them released and developed in the public interest.

At the previous meeting it was suggested that an independent Ad Hoc group be formed to facilitate the dotNeighborhood’s development. Thomas Lowenhaupt, CnI executive director, reported that he’d had discussions about the formation of an independent organization and that legal assistance was available. He suggested that a statement of principles regarding the role and responsibilities of the dotNeighborhoods be drafted, refined, and endorsed by supporters via an Ad Hoc dotNeighborhood Trust. And that this statement of principles be refined and passed on to the City Council and Mayor. All agreed.

Following the meeting a draft “dotNeighborhoods Proclamation” was published on CnI’s wiki. With this post we invite public comment on that draft document. After wide circulation, comments, and refinement it is expected that an Ad Hoc dotNeighborhood Trust will endorse and present the Proclamation to our elected representatives for their thoughts, consideration, and assistance with developing the dotNeighborhoods.

Learn more about this initiative from the dotNeighborhoods wiki pages. (Commons image courtesy of sporkwrapper.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page.

Hunter-College.JPGNew York, October 20, 2009 - When Corona.nyc, JacksonHeights.nyc, Melrose.nyc, ParkSlope.nyc,  SoHo.nyc, Tribeca.nyc and 300 other neighborhood names become available upon the activation of the .nyc TLD, how will traditional civic practices be affected? What impact will their activation have on existing digital communication channels? How can we develop policies that assure that these names are used to serve resident needs? What local content should be made available to each dotNeighborhood? What technology should deliver it? Who should publish them? What’s the agreement that assures accountability?

We began focusing on these and related questions on our dotNeighborhood pages earlier this year and have sponsored several public meetings to generate interest and thought on the possibilities.

To further the knowledge base on dotNeighborhoods, Connecting.nyc Inc. recently contracted with the Urban Development Workshop at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Under the able eye of Prof. Jill Simone Gross, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, a research team of Jennifer Dong, Barry Kogan, Matt Leiderman, and Melanie Reyes will detail the digital resources that currently exist within several identified neighborhoods and present the potential benefits that .nyc might offer. Entitled “A Case Study - Neighborhoods in a Digital Era” the report will be completed by year’s end.

Filed October 21st, 2009 under Partner, Neighborhoods, City-TLDs, GIS, Education, Civics, Governance

barcoded-NYC.0.JPGNew York City, May 1, 2009 - When I explain the benefits of the .nyc TLD, people sometimes say “domain names are old hat,” or “Google does names,” that “cell phones don’t need them,”  and “everyone’s already got one,” or even “why complicate the world with a new TLD?”

One of the images I’ve used with these recalcitrants is the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 and the impact it had by creating the Manhattan street grid. Our logo - part grid part web - evolved from this image. Sometimes I get a convert.

After scheduling an early May meeting on Neighborhood Names - e.g. Astoria.nyc - I had a gut feeling that within the promise for improved local communication that these 300+ names offered, there was the spark for a better explanation of .nyc’s potential. So I called my old friend Alex and asked him to help me detect that spark, perhaps via an analogy. Luck was on my side as Alex, who had worked for 30 years developing logistics policy for the Pentagon, drew my attention to the efficiencies the barcode brought to the supply chain and the retail world saying, “Imagine running a supermarket without the barcode.”

So why do we need .nyc? Think of the historically dreadful state of neighborhood communication - no local papers, radio, TV (albeit with a few minor exceptions). Over the past decade oodles of websites have popped up to try to fill this gap. But few provide a broad neighborhood view and the coordination tools to address grievances and opportunities, and none have an “official” identity that enables them to become local “media centers.”

With a carefully planned introduction, what .nyc provides is an avalanche or big bang effect, bringing reorganization and efficiencies like those barcodes brought to the retail world, to neighborhoods. And if we extend from this name niche to the entire .nyc name space, one might begin to see the impact of an organized digital grid.

Link to Connecting.nyc Inc.’s wiki pages.

New York, January 28­, 2009 - ­Look for us. We’re coming to your neighborhood.  My experience at the Town Hall meeting sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was very positive and a success for Connectingnyc.org.  Borough President Stringer is very interested in how our technology firms are working to define and solve some of the problems in our neighborhoods.  He told me to email him because he works for us.  And we in turn look forward to working with this great city, NYC.

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Filed January 29th, 2009 under social network, GIS, Governance, City Agency

­­My-Issue-Communities-Map.JPGNovember 25, 2008, New York - We received a positive response to our grant application to the Knight Foundation as follows:

“We have completed our review of your application to the Knight News Challenge for Issue-Communities. Congratulations! You have been selected to complete a full proposal.”

Over 2,000 submissions were sent to Knight for part of their hefty News Challenge Grant fund. Of those, 275 remain in contention. In previous years Knight issued about 10 grants, so our chances remain slim, particularly as many of the other submissions are quite good.

We’ve created  a wiki page describing the Issue-Communities concept. If you have any thoughts, send them our way. Knight will not be making a decision on this until the summer, giving others the chance to develop the Issue-Communities independently - with our best wishes - or to join us in making it happen.

Regrettably, there won’t be a public comment opportunity at the Knight website for the second round applications where we had hoped for additional comments on the concept. But our enhanced application (better organized, more details, and with answers to several additional questions) is available on our wiki - see our Issue-Communities page. Let us know what you think.

(Revised December 20, 2008.) (Commons photo courtesy of Geoffrey Rockwell.)  

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.