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Mayor de Blasio Brings NYC's First Neighborhood Innovation Lab for Smart City Technologies to Brownsville

March 20, 2017

Community ideas lab builds on City’s commitment to modernize public infrastructure, support neighborhood development, and bridge the digital divide

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño, and New York City Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett today announced that Brownsville, Brooklyn will be home to the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. The tech equity initiative brings together community members, government, educators, and tech companies to help address neighborhood concerns with cutting-edge technologies.

Brownsville’s Neighborhood Innovation Lab will kick off this week with a series of strategic planning sessions for community leaders. Over the next four months, these community advisors will work with the City to define neighborhood needs and explore how smart city technologies can help improve quality of life and support local economic development. The first community forum, with activities for all ages, is scheduled for May 2017. Also, beginning this summer, the first set of new technologies – including trash cans that alert sanitation workers when they are full, solar-powered benches that offer free cell phone charging, and interactive digital kiosks – will be rolled out in Brownsville. Community residents will be invited to test out these devices and share feedback that City agencies will use to evaluate the impact and value of these technologies. 

“New York is a city of neighborhoods and there is no better way to prepare communities for the future than by empowering residents to define their needs and help our shape technology investments,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Neighborhood Innovation Labs provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with community, and also open new doors for local residents to learn about careers in technology, a fast-growing sector of our economy.”

The model for Neighborhood Innovation Labs was first announced at the White House in conjunction with President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015, and fine-tuned as part of the Envision America program in 2016. Neighborhood Innovation Labs are a public-private partnership led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. Brownsville Community Justice Center will serve as the lead community partner for the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and Osborn Plaza will serve as the anchor site for public programs and initial technology demonstrations. 

“Rapid technological advances hold the potential to transform our cities, driving quality of life improvements for millions of New Yorkers,” said Miguel Gamiño, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York. “Our challenge – and responsibility – is to ensure these technologies reach and benefit all New Yorkers, not merely a select few. Neighborhood Innovation Labs represent an important step toward fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a stronger, more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.”

“We have identified the smart cities and civic tech industry as having major potential for job growth in New York City," said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. "By connecting this industry with neighborhoods across the city, we can both increase the impact of smart cities solutions and teach communities about an entirely new segment in our economy. This is all part of the de Blasio Administration’s strategy to invest in high-growth industries and connect New Yorkers to better opportunities by creating 100,000 jobs over the next ten years. We are proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress on this important initiative and look forward to seeing its impact across our city.”

“The Mayor’s willingness to be accountable for responsive local investment is vital to successful community development,” said Erica Mateo, Deputy Director of Brownsville Community Justice Center. “As our City becomes smarter, tech equity across NYC becomes even more important to growing local economies. Equity is present when residents and stakeholders are defining problems, using data, creating feedback loops and government is shepherding in relevant resources – this is what the Neighborhood Innovation Labs attempts to do.” 

“We are honored to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and the NYC Economic Development Corporation in this significant endeavor. This public-private partnership will allow for vast improvements in the observations, analyses, and models of cities. This is extraordinary information that will allow for improved urban systems and quality of life in New York City, said Dr. Steven E. Koonin, Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Community advisors include:

  • Jimmi Brevil, Community Assistant for Brooklyn Community Board #16
  • Pernell Brice, III, Executive Director of the Dream Big Foundation
  • Lloyd Cambridge, Founder of Progress Playbook
  • Anthony Collins, Owner of Bloc Bully IT Solutions
  • Nakisha Evans, Director of the Office of Workforce Partnerships at C.U.N.Y.
  • Duane Kinnon, President and CEO of The Kinnon Group
  • Erica Mateo, Deputy Director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center
  • Daniel Murphy, Executive Director of the Pitkin Avenue BID
  • Layman Lee, Placemaking Manager at Brownsville Partnership
  • Quardean Lewis-Allen, Founder and CEO of Made in Brownsville
  • Johnnymae Robinson, Project Coordinator for What About The Children
  • Mary Tobin, Executive Director of Brownsville Partnership

Additional partners include:

  • Office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
  • Office of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke
  • Office of NYS Senator Jesse Hamilton
  • Office of NYS Assembly Member Latrice Walker
  • Office of NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal

Neighborhood Innovation Labs present a unique opportunity for tech companies and universities to respond to community-identified needs and test their technology solutions in a real-world environment with community feedback. Through this process, the labs aim to connect more New Yorkers to economic opportunity – highlighting careers in STEM and connecting local residents to training programs like the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline. In his 2017 State of the City Address, Mayor de Blasio committed to creating 100,000 quality jobs over the next ten years through targeted investments in sectors with high potential for growth. Among industries like advanced manufacturing and life sciences, the smart cities sector has the potential to emerge as a strong segment of New York City’s economy and create quality jobs. Neighborhood Innovation Labs build on the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to support the industry, such as its Urbantech NYC program, which has created two hubs for growth stage technology companies at Grand Central Tech and New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Neighborhood Innovation Labs are supported by an initial $250,000-a-year funding allocation from the City. Based on the outcome of the first Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville, the City will explore expanding the initiative to all five boroughs. Members of the public interested in getting involved should visit:

“This investment in technology and education is an important step towards making Brownsville an even better place to live and work,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “HPD is proud to collaborate with our fellow city agencies, local partners, and elected officials to address both sides of the affordability crisis by pairing affordable homes with economic opportunity. Through HPD’s Brownsville Neighborhood Planning Initiative and the new Neighborhood Innovation Lab for smart technologies, we can preserve what makes this neighborhood special while building a brighter future for the Brownsville community.”

“Capitalizing on local talent and innovation is a critical part of inclusive climate action,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “We experience the impacts of our changing environment block by block in our city and that makes the Neighborhood Innovation Lab a uniquely important channel for our communities to prioritize smart, local solutions to global challenges.”

“As a Brooklynite myself I am excited to see this embodiment of Open Data for All in action,” said Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer for the City of New York. “It is only by directly engaging people in their communities and empowering them with tools such as open data that New York City will truly become a smart city. I look forward to supporting the efforts in Brownsville through the Neighborhood Innovation Labs.”

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for selecting Brownsville as our first Neighborhood Innovation Lab site for smart city technologies,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “My administration has been a leading champion of smart city innovations, and it is exciting to see our efforts expand in a meaningful way to communities looking to tap into their full potential. Part of building communities up involves working together to utilize existing resources. With the smart city approach, Brownsville residents and local organizations will be empowered with the tools to pinpoint problems and create data-driven solutions.”

“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio, the Mayor’s Office of Tech and Innovation, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation for implementing a Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville that involves community residents in the exciting technology sector and ultimately contributes to economic development that benefits the neighborhood and its people,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. “Brownsville has enormous potential that these invaluable resources will help to build upon and develop.”

New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Engage the community, empower neighborhood residents, and enhance our collective capacity to participate in the info-tech revolution occurring all around us. That vision was in place when we launched ‘the Campus,’ the first tech and wellness hub at a public housing site in the United States, in Brownsville last year. I am proud to see that vision resonate with leaders across our City and across our State. This neighborhood innovation lab for smart city technologies holds the promise of connecting tech leaders, community leaders, and neighborhood residents to deliver cutting edge, real world solutions. Working in cooperation, we can realize the talents, skills, and dreams of Brownsville residents, I am glad to welcome the community-centered, community-driven, and community-led efforts of the Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation, NYC EDC, and the Center for Urban Science and Progress at NYU. I look forward to the successes we can achieve in partnership with on-the-ground, neighborhood experts.”

“I am proud that Brownsville will host New York City’s first neighborhood innovation lab for smart city technology,” said Latrice Walker, New York State Assembly Member for the 55th Assembly District. “Brownsville Community Justice Center helps lead this public-private partnership program that will utilize resources to help bring together government, educators, and technology sectors that help improve the community. I look forward to working in tandem with this program to ensure its success.”

“The development of smart technologies will enable the City of New York to increase efficiencies of countless municipal services and make these services more responsive to the everyday needs of residents,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Technology. “Consulting with community groups and members, and exploring how new devices might meaningfully address their needs is an important step towards realizing smart technology's immense potential. I am excited to see how the neighborhood innovation lab develops in Brownsville and how the community comes together to make technology work for them.”

“In an ever increasingly technological world, we must do all we can to stay up-to-date and be technologically competitive,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “There is no place better than Brownsville, Brooklyn, which has for so long been neglected, to be the site of our city’s future innovation and stimulation. Congrats to the Mayor and all who have been involved with this forward thinking initiative!”

“We now live in a world where data is increasingly determining our future,” said Viola Greene-Walker, District Manager for Brooklyn Community Board 16. “The Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab has the potential to allow the community to inform the city on what portion of that data matters most to them in their daily lives. The workshops will serve to determine how the data can help to inform the community about local and citywide resources and allow the community to voice their opinions on how to improve their quality of life.”

“Humanity has developed technology that allows us to access millions of books in the palm of our hand, technology that builds houses in a matter of hours, and the ability to fly a plane with a remote control, yet with all of those advances, many of our under-served communities like Brownsville still continue to wrestle with public service challenges that can be vastly improved and even solved with the right technology. As the Director of the Brownsville Partnership, I look forward to serving on Brownsville’s Community Tech Advisory Board to learn the needs of the community, discover what improvements are possible with the use of smart technology, and to address those challenges helping Brownsville to truly thrive,” said Mary L. Tobin, Director, Brownsville Partnership.

“Neighborhood inclusion at every level of civic life is critical, particularly around the introduction of smart technology and its future usage within city services,” said Pernell Brice, Executive Director, The Dream Big Foundation. “The Dream Big Foundation applauds the Mayor's Office of Technology & Innovation for launching the city's first Neighborhood Innovation Lab around smart technologies in Brownsville, BK, where residents of this community can provide critical input on how these technologies should best impact their lives.”

“The selection of Brownsville as NYC’s first neighborhood innovation lab for smart city technologies highlights and supports our long-term efforts to improve opportunities for deeper engagement between social impact organizations and technology companies,” said Duane Kinnon, President and CEO, The Kinnon Group. The Kinnon Group is honored to participate and we are committed to developing a tech-equitable ecosystem in Brownsville for residents – especially children of color and girls.”

“New Lab, a place and platform that supports the advancement of new technology in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is a proud partner of NYCEDC in fostering tech-based solutions for urban challenges. We believe that a strong innovation ecosystem is crucial for the future of our city, and we are thrilled that the ecosystem is growing with the launch of Neighborhood Innovation Labs,” said David Belt, Co-founder and CEO of New Lab.

“It is an honor to support the development of New York City's first Neighborhood Innovation Lab,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC. “Since 2013, our members have called for the creation of a Smarter Communities Academy that would link data, tools, and curriculum into an empowering framework building smarter communities. Investing in people over products further extends the existing open data for all vision and truly creates a smarter city. We're honored to bring our curriculum to the mix.”

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