Monday, June 19, 2017


A Competition Partnered CBOs And Tech Companies To Develop Data-Driven Ideas To Boost Neighborhoods And Quality Of Life

NEW YORK – Commissioner Gregg Bishop of the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) today announced the winners of a pitch competition that partnered community-based organizations (CBOs) with local technology companies to develop creative tech solutions to enhance commercial districts. A total of 40 teams submitted proposals and 12 finalists were selected to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges at an event hosted by SBS at the Hub @ Grand Central Tech. The five winning community-based organizations will each receive awards of $100,000 from SBS' Neighborhood Challenge program. Awardees will use funding to implement tailored, data-driven solutions that build the capacity of CBOs to address the challenges faced in their commercial districts.

"Great neighborhoods make a great city, and we are using technology to build vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs," said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. "These awards will empower community-based organizations to meet local needs – boosting small businesses and enhancing quality of life."

"The Neighborhood Challenge initiative is inspiring because it connects the potential of cutting edge, urban or "smart city" technology to the heart of the City's communities yielding a network of knowledge and opportunity for urban planners and citizens alike," said Matthew Harrigan, CEO of Grand Central Tech. "Indeed, this initiative is directly tied to the Hub's mission statement of bettering the lives of NYC residents while also providing opportunity for local urban tech entrepreneurs."

"Commercial corridors are critical to New York City's diverse economy," said James Patchett, NYC Economic Development Corporation President and CEO. "The SBS Neighborhood Challenge will leverage our city's world-class tech talent to grow businesses, create quality jobs, and drive economic development in neighborhoods across our city."

Grantees will have one year to complete projects that address a significant commercial district challenge and have a measureable impact on the commercial district management organization's operations. Beyond the year of implementation, Neighborhood Challenge projects are intended to serve as catalysts that have the potential for long-term sustainability and positive economic impact. Neighborhood Challenge receives funding from the New York City Economic Development Corporation. More information on Neighborhood Challenge may be found by visiting:

Competition winners:

Chinatown Partnership

The Neighborhood Narrative App will help Chinatown businesses overcome the cultural barriers that lead to common misrepresentation on popular media platforms and the subsequent devaluing of products, services, and local events. Through community outreach, the bilingual app will appropriately represent Chinatown's small businesses by providing much needed cultural background on their goods, services, and customs.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership + DUMBO Improvement District

This Visitor Engagement Solution technology will utilize wayfinding technology to better connect neighborhood visitors and residents to local businesses, programming, events, and other community initiatives. Smartphone users can open their browser to a landing page that will populate to display local businesses, deals, events, and amenities.

Long Island City Partnership

With connectivity as one of the community's biggest challenges, LIC needs a comprehensive signage and wayfinding system that will orient and inform visitors and alert them to opportunities for engaging with their community. LIC COMPASS will combine visual signage cues with branding that identifies the neighborhood.

Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Although Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Wallabout contain some of Brooklyn's wealthiest blocks, 23% of residents surrounding Myrtle Avenue live below the poverty line and even more are considered 'working poor'. As wealthier residents move to these neighborhoods, the retail environment evolves and it becomes increasingly difficult for households with low incomes to meet their needs locally. Together with Benefit Kitchen, the project team will develop a Myrtle Avenue-branded outreach app that will screen eligibility for 18 government benefits and local promotions.

Rockaway Business Alliance

The launch of the NYC Ferry to the Rockaways has created an opportunity for business to connect with an expanding customer base. This project will use technology expand connectivity throughout communities in the Rockaways for both down-for-the-day beachgoers and lifelong residents looking to expand their horizons.

Other program finalists included:

East Village Independent Merchants Association

This local business database will provide a snapshot of the average East Village small business in regards to finances, sales, foot traffic, vendor costs, rents, and wage rates. A comprehensive understanding of broader revenue trends and cost benchmarks allow business owners to remain competitive and leverage their knowledge with vendors and landlords.

Madison Avenue Business Improvement District

1-TouchNYC is a tool for informing and engaging communities, and promoting local shopping from a smartphone. The Bluetooth technology will allow local shops to engage users passing their storefronts of in-store happenings and promotions. Users will also receive notifications regarding neighborhood happenings and alerts as well as weather and transit updates.

Grand Street BID

With the pending 2019 L train shutdown, there are real concerns about the state of small businesses in the affected commercial corridors. Our project will leverage technology and local knowledge to enable data-driven decision making by assessing potential risks and implementing counter measures. This project will give us the data needed to plan for the L-train shutdown, advocate for mobility measures that will measurably benefit our district, and re-vitalize our retail base.

Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

To preserve the vital character of Harlem and Chinatown commercial corridors, we need to help our small businesses and community adapt to new competitors and shifting trends. The Neighborhood Health Project will focus on improving our commercial corridors and the economic health of the community through vacancy tracking. A low barrier, easy access communications management system will simplify business outreach efforts to save time and optimize data collection.

Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition

Our Kingsbridge/Jerome Commercial Corridor faces significant challenges including landlord harassment, rising rents, loss of long-term leases, access to resources, and knowledge of existing protections. DataHub is a custom, open-source system that will improve and expand our business surveying capacity while linking to an online powerful Bronx business vendor platform where businesses can network and promote their services.

Soho Strut

SoHo Strut is partnering with Haystack to leverage the best aspects of e-commerce to help brick-and-mortar retail thrive again. This project will drive traffic back into brick and mortar stores through the creation of a seamless search and pick-up/delivery marketplace. The future for physical retail is one where shoppers can search nearby store shelves as easily as they can browse Amazon.

Staten Island Economic Development Corporation

Staten Island's economic development future relies on effective distribution of information, data management, and innovative platforms for showcasing the rapidly growing borough. Our project will create a multi-lingual mapping and marketing project which will identify valuable points of interest for residents and potential investors alike.

About The Urban Tech Hub @ Grand Central Tech

The Urban Tech Hub @ Grand Central Tech is part of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) UrbanTech NYC program to help entrepreneurs and innovators address the city's urban challenges in sectors such as energy, waste, transportation, agriculture and water. The urban tech initiative works to provide tech innovation for the community and provide opportunities for NYC-based startups. The Hub is home to almost 40 companies in the urban tech space and was built to support and advance the prospects of entrepreneurs and companies seeking to address NYC challenges.

About NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS)

SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information on all SBS services, go to, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.