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Open Government: Innovation and Transparency

Dig in to New York City's 2012 Digital Roadmap:Progress and Innovation.
Download the pdf here or navigate through each section using the icons below.


The City of New York is committed to constant innovation and transparency, and an Open Government approach enables the City to collaborate with developers to better serve New Yorkers through technology. Open Government systems apply the successful models of technology companies such as Facebook or Foursquare, whose open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable them to exponentially scale services and compound the “network effects” of their platform.

In the same way, the City of New York aims to serve as a platform for technology innovation by opening its data resources to spark idea and tools that serve New Yorkers. Over the past year, led by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), the City of New York’s Open Government achievements have been unprecedented, including landmark open data legislation; the release of hundreds of new, real-time data sets and the biggest year yet for the NYC BigApps, the City’s developer contents co-hosted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC).

Develop NYC Open Data, an Open Government Framework Featuring APIs for City Data

In the fall of 2011, in tandem with NYC BigApps, DoITT unveiled the new NYC Open Data platform ( now running on the Socrata platform. The site features a series of new tools to improve usability, including:


  • Data sets in a variety of machine-readable formats and as application programming interfaces (APIs) for direct connectivity to data feeds
  • Enhanced browsing and search capabilities allowing users to search by full dataset or by datum within datasets
  • Visualization tools such as maps, charts and graphs
  • Discussion forums for user feedback and suggestions
  • Regular refreshes of data sets, with metadata informing users how often particular data sets will be updated

Reflecting Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to transparency and innovation and the efforts by dozens of agencies through NYC Open Data, nearly 900 data sets are now available via APIs to developers and data scientistsenabling real-time integration with apps and up-to-the-minute analysis. Therepository contains a variety of datasets, including restaurant inspection ratings, 311 requests and school test scores. In addition, users can view maps or download shape-files of a range of location-linked information, from subway entrances to Wi-Fi hotspots. Charts and graphs visually showcase data from birth rates to energy consumption.









 Users can find datasets, including GIS maps of public City parks, on the NYC Open Data platform.

NYC Local Law 11 of 2012: A National Milestone in Open Data Legislation

A significant milestone in New York City's open government strategy was the passage of NYC Local Law 11, the most ambitious and comprehensive open data legislation in the country. The law outlines a three-step plan foropening all of the City's data by 2018:

  1. To begin, DoITT will post a technical standards manual online, providing City agencies with a playbook for gathering, structuring and automating their public data.
  2. Following the manual publication, each City agency will convert all public data from "locked" (e.g. PDF) to open formats within oneyear. Open formats will enable computer programmers to build data-powered apps and allow data scientists to analyze City resources.
  3. Finally, DoITT will work with each agency to develop and publish acompliance plan that includes a description of each agency’s public data These steps form the basis for the City’s strategy to open all public data by the end of 2018.

311 API

Another major achievement in the City’s open government roadmap was the introduction of the 311 Inquiry API in conjunction with the Reinvent Hackathon, enabling participants to develop functional, realistic prototypes. This “Read” API provides developers with access to the same helpful information that 311 call center representatives use to answer more than 22 million calls annually. Currently, the 311 Inquiry API lists 6,612 different facilities and 1,759 services offered by the City. While the API is currently read-only and thus cannot process service request transactions, more than 70% of calls to 311 are resolved by providing information alone,showing that the 311 Inquiry API has the ability to handle a majority of customer concerns.








Mayor Bloomberg at NYC BigApps 3.0



New data sets, prizes and resources helped attract a record setting 96 app submissions in the City's third annual NYC BigApps contest, a software competition developed by NYCEDC and DoITT that challenges developersto create online and mobile applications using NYC Open Data. NYC BigApps continued its strategic partnership with BMW iVentures and ChallengePost and secured new partnerships with over 20 leading NYC startups that provided APIs for the new "NYC Mashup". This year, Tech Stars and NY Tech Meetup provided prizing for the winners. In addition, NYC BigApps hosted its first hackathon, a weekend-long event generating 10 demos eligible for $2500 in additional prizes; a Developer Day for teams to meet and work on their apps; and an Ideas Challenge, which crowd sourced application ideas from the public. NYC Big Apps and NYC Open Data together demonstrate the power Open Government initiatives have in increasing transparency and accountability and sparking innovation and cultivating entrepreneurship.



Launch a Central Platform for Cultivating Feedback from the Developer Community


To engage the New York City developer community in the future of open data platform and policies, DoITT has partnered with BigApps 3.0 Grand Prize winner NYC Facets to provide a public wiki for drafting standards and encouraging feedback: The newly launched platform has garnered accolades and active involvement from good government groups and technologists alike, with Next American City describing it as a “double leap into the future of open government.”

Introduce Visualization Tools that Make Data More Accessible to the Public


In addition to providing developers with powerful resources, the City of New York is committed to ensuring that nontechnical New Yorkers can take advantage of open data advances. Leveraging the enhanced data visualizations tools available on the new NYC Open Data platform as well as external applications, the NYC Open Data Tumblr (  showcases thought-provoking NYC Open Data visualizations of information that matters most to New Yorkers. While the NYC Open Data repository on Socrata is geared to developers, the Tumblr allows researchers, academics, journalists and other non-technical New Yorkers to explore featured data sets in an accessible format while further encouraging public submissions.









DoITT hosted NYC Open Data Policy Hack Day at Pivotal Labs




In 2011, New York City challenged the public to share ideas for apps for residents, businesses and visitors. Participants submitted over 600 ideas to the NYC BigApps Ideas Challenge and cast more than 1,600 votes of support. The 25 application ideas with the most votes were named as finalists, and each was awarded $100. The 25 finalists were then evaluated by a panel of judges, who selected the 10 best overall ideas, each of which received an additional $250 for their winning idea.


In July 2011, the City partnered with General Assembly to host its first of ficial hackathon, welcoming over 100 participants to collaboratively build prototypes that will guide the future development of, the public’s primary digital gateway to City government. The event, titled Reinvent, was supported by access to leading technology APIs and City data, and participants generated 14 proposals for the upcoming redesign of A panel of judges from the public and private sectors, including Meet up’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Heiferman, General Assembly’s Mimi Chun and TechStars’ David Tisch, selected five winners based on innovation, usability, social integration, location technology and ingenuity.

The goal of the Reinvent hackathon was to bridge government and technology sectors, kick off  the redesign process with transparency and bring fresh eyes and innovation to the challenge of updating the City’s website. Winning proposals demonstrated innovative approaches to civic engagement and communication. The five themes consistently demonstrated were search, crowdsourced question & answer platforms, location based customization, social media integration and gaming mechanics. Winners were invited to demonstrate their prototypes to Mayor Bloomberg during a breakfast at which the Mayor personally thanked the winners and discussed the future of

The Reinvent Hackathon, one of the first of its kind in government, established an effective template for sparking innovation, accelerating development and encouraging greater civic collaboration. The formal redesign process for was initiated in January 2012, when the City released a Request for Proposals to identify a design and front-end development  vendor. The results of the Reinvent Hackathon will help the City to work with the winning vendor to develop a functional, well-designed user experience of, which is expected to be completed in 2013.

In addition to the Reinvent Hackathon, DoITT has introduced the NYC Open Data Platform to thousands of developers through presentations at numerous events including hackathons hosted by Spotify, Cleanweb, NYC BigApps, Foursquare, General Assembly and HackNY.


Top to bottom:
•Best User Interface
•Best Local
•Most Innovative
• Best Social
• Judges' Pick  



Reinvent Green

Inspired by the success of the City’s first hackathon, Reinvent, the City announced in April 2012 its first sustainability hackathon: Reinvent Green, a joint initiative of NYC Digital and the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability. Hosted at NYU-Poly in Downtown Brooklyn over the weekend of Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1, 2012, the hackathon rallied and incentivized the City’s best technology talent to create digital tools, web and mobile applications that encouraged a greener, greater New York City. To this end, a number of City agencies released new data sets around information on City-owned infrastructure, energy usage, publicspaces data, as well as updated information on the City’s sustainability indicators. The City partnered with two established Brooklyn technology institutions on this initiative–NYU-Poly and Brooklyn Beta, and was proud to team up once again with the talented technology community, as well as prominent API and technical partners, to collaboratively address the City’s most important sustainability challenges.

Over one weekend, more than 100 developers and designers gathered to create digital tools and apps using the City’s open data sets that focus on encouraging sustainability. A panel of judges evaluated 13 team projects and selected the five winning apps in the pre-determined categories.

Best APP for City Crowdsourcing: Rebounty
ReBounty is an easy way to find and list curb alerts in an effort to reduce the amount of unwanted waste that is thrown out in urban areas every year.

Best APP for Parks and Public Spaces: Freshfixnyc
Enabling New Yorkers to have better and easier access to Farmers Markets.

Best APP for Parks and Public Spaces: Freshfixnyc
Enabling New Yorkers to have better and easier access to Farmers Markets.

Best APP for Recycling / Waste Reduction: Greencan
GreenCan will let users locate their nearest public recycling trash can, provide information for recycling organics and electronics and provide valuable feedback to NYC for future recycling can placement.

Best APP for Transportation: Bike Pooling
Car pooling for bikes. Find people who commute on the same path as you and start riding with them every morning and evening.

JUDGES’ PICK: Green, Greener, Greenest!
Competition between each neighborhood as to who is the greenest. Shows what the neighborhood should do to beat the one above it in the league table.

After the winners were selected, fans of the City of New York’s Facebook page voted for their favorite app among the five—choosing the winner of the sixth prize category—the PopularChoice award. At the end, the Popular Choice Award went to


MapBox, a technology Green hackathon, presented datavisualizations like the one shown here of one million building footprints of the City.  

Clockwise: Best App for Transportation • Best App for Parks and Public Spaces • Best App for Recycling/Waste Reduction • Best App for City Crowdsourcing •Judges' Pick • Developer and designer participants worked a combined 1,000 hours over the weekend.

Explore the Digital Roadmap Online
Dig in to New York City's 2012 Digital Roadmap:Progress and Innovation.
Download the pdf here or navigate through each section using the icons below.

Education: Investing in the FutureEngagement: A User-Centric Experience