Brownsville is a neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn, accessed by the 3 and L trains and several buses. It is home to just under 87,000 people.
A creative and entrepreneurial community, Brownsville is home to many vibrant civic, social service, and community organizations. Brownsville has also experienced challenges due to historic patterns of income inequality, segregation, and disinvestment, and residents suffer from cycles of violence and trauma and many struggle to find work.
Some local business corridors and neighborhood spaces, like Pitkin and Belmont Avenues, host many community events and are robust or growing centers of activity at certain times of day, but many spaces, due to perceptions of safety, a lack of amenities, and low geographic connectivity, are very empty at night, leaving Brownsville residents with few options for nighttime economic and cultural activity.
More people navigating, enjoying, and activating Brownsville’s public spaces after 7pm is understood by community members as the key to reducing crime, reducing the need for enforcement actions, and accelerating commercial and cultural opportunities in Brownsville.
From a 2016 community survey conducted by the Brownsville Community Justice Center, 45% of people reported feeling “not very safe” or “not at all safe” during nighttime hours on one of the neighborhood’s three main commercial corridors, Belmont Ave.
Brownsville residents report a few factors that influence their lack of nighttime space usage:
- Businesses and restaurants mostly close around 7pm.
- Few options exist for cultural or community activities at night.
- Many corridors feel unsafe due to emptiness, light levels, and crime.
Businesses also face constraints when choosing when to be open. Some would like to stay open later, but there often aren’t enough customers to make staying open later worthwhile.
Smart city approaches, such as interactive streetscape amenities, responsive services, and creative use of infrastructure to provide additional services, present opportunities to use technology to help increase the perception in Brownsville’s commercial corridors at night. Together with new business openings and activation activities by community organizations, we’re excited to see how we might use new technology approaches to encourage more use of Brownsville’s communal spaces at night without increasing the need for police presence or enforcement activity.
We want to support the community-led revitalization of the Belmont Avenue Business Corridor by testing interactive and technologically-forward streetscape amenities and other public realm improvements that can accelerate the creation of a night-time environment attractive for businesses, cultural producers, and civic services.
We’re looking for tools and approaches that will support our partners in Brownsville as they work toward their goal of zero assaults, zero arrests, zero crashes and zero vacancies. By increasing safe nighttime activity in Brownsville, we hope to support the economy of the neighborhood by providing better economic conditions for entrepreneurs and small businesses, helping to create jobs in the community.
This challenge was envisioned by the NYCx Co-Lab in Brownsville (formerly the Neighborhood Innovation Lab), a collaboration among NYC government agencies, academic institutions, and Brownsville community leaders to ensure that smart city technologies are responsive to community needs.
Pilots will be sponsored and deployed by the NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation. Selection will be advised by the Brownsville Community Technology Advisory Board, which includes representatives from the Brownsville Community Justice Center, Friends of Brownsville Parks, Brownsville Partnership, Made in Brownsville, and Brooklyn Community Board 16, Pitkin Avenue BID, Office of NYS Assembly Member Latrice Walker, What About The Children, Bloc Bully IT Solutions, 3 Black Cats Cafe, The Dream Big Innovation Center, The Knowledge House, and Brooklyn Public Library.
Learn more about NYCx Co-Labs.