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Calling All Volunteer Civic Technologists: NYC Parks to Host National Day of Civic Hacking Event

June 1, 2016

First-ever City-hosted event for National Day of Civic Hacking: Parks’ Data Jam: Hackathon and TreesCount! Workshop—RSVP Required

NEW YORK–This Saturday, the Department of Parks and Recreation will host the city’s first event aligned with National Day of Civic Hacking – a nationwide day of action on Saturday, June 4th – bringing together civic technologists and community members to leverage skills to help their community. With support from the Mayor's Office of Technology + Innovation, NYC Open Data, BetaNYC, Microsoft Civic, and CartoDB, “Data Jam,” hosted at Civic Hall, looks to draw data scientists, statisticians, developers, designers, visualizers, cartographers, and quants to help Parks improve its understanding of and plan for the future of our city’s urban forest.

“This hackathon will bring together some of the most talented and engaged volunteers from across the city to exchange ideas and help improve our understanding of the city’s urban forest,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “A central tenet of the NYC Digital Playbook is to foster more collaboration with engaged citizens and civic technologists, and this event is a great example of that kind of partnership.”

“Data is a crucial component to building a more fair and equitable City, and to be effective, it must be for the people, by the people. This year, the City Council expanded NYC’s existing Open Data Law by increasing the data’s transparency and usability,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Saturday’s TreesCount Data Jam is an exciting next step to inclusive Open Data initiatives that improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

“NYC Parks relies on volunteers in many ways to aid in caring for our Parks, from greening them to cleaning them, and they even help count our trees,” said Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation. “Now, we are looking for volunteer data and stat experts to join us in analyzing our TreesCount! Data—advancing our goals of improving our understanding and management of our urban forest across the boroughs.” 

“New York City techies have hearts as big as their brains,” says Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco. “and the NYC Parks Data Jam is a great way for techies to get involved with our trees data. I look forward to seeing the turnout for the National Day of Civic Hacking at the Data Jam and encourage the tech community to come out and have some fun.”

“When we published Open Data for All, we laid out two core beliefs – every New Yorker can benefit from Open Data, and Open Data can benefit from every New Yorker,” said Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer and the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. “Why be in front of a computer on a summer Saturday? It’s because you have the opportunity to turn your skills, curiosity, and insight into measurable impact on your community and citywide. Come join us on June 4th!”

“Events like Data Jam highlight the good work agencies are doing across the City to feed the Open Data Portal,” said Anne Roest, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications. “We at DoITT encourage this effort—and hope to see more like it—as we move beyond publishing data and towards new and creative ways to use data to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

“New York’s urban forest is as unique as its inhabitants,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC. “Last year, we voluntreered with the Parks Department and helped make this data set. Now, we sink our hands into the digital soil to improve municipal services and make the underlying data universally accessible. We are excited to celebrate this day with our neighbors and build a healthier, smarter, more resilient city.”

Data Jam has two major components:

  • A data-insights oriented “hackathon,” with five challenges oriented around how street tree census data can help improve the equitable care of NYC’s urban forest. In order to develop these challenges, NYC Parks engaged with its TreesCount! Volunteer mappers, as well as its tree-oriented community groups and nonprofit partners, to define these challenge questions:
    • How has NYC’s urban forest changed over time – comparing 1995, 2005, and 2015?
    • How can we visualize Street Tree Census Data to improve our understanding of the urban forest and help educate New Yorkers?
    • What relationships can be drawn between the Street Tree Census Data and other environmental and economic indicators in New York City?
    • How can we use the Street Tree Census Data to more efficiently plan for the long term health and growth of the urban forest?
    • How can we use Street Tree Census Data to better engage with and target the efforts of community stewardship volunteers to improve the health of the urban forest?

      This portion of the event is geared towards fostering collaboration between skilled civic technologists and tree stewards, as well as advancing community engagement with NYC Parks through data.
  • The TreesCount! Workshop, a workshop for members of the public who are interested in open data and analyzing the tree census data that they helped collect. A majority of these volunteers do not have data analysis skills. This workshop is geared to building digital tree stewards and cross-pollinating the skills they need to use the NYC Open Data portal and the TreeCensus! Data.

Event details—RSVP required:

Saturday June 4th, 2016
8:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Civic Hall, 156 5th Avenue, 2nd floor, New York City

The NYC Parks is hosting a TreesCount! Data Jam as an extension of its participatory mapping campaign to spark and sustain public engagement with NYC’s urban forest through its Street Tree Census data collected in 2015.  The Street Tree Census is a volunteer powered initiative to help NYC Parks collect the comprehensive data need to manage our urban forest. The Parks street tree map, which will showcase daily updates to the Street Tree Census data made by our Forestry team, will be revealed in the fall.

Through the Data Jam, NYC Parks is recognizing that in order to complete the community engagement circle, we need to make use of the data available on the Open Data Portal. The Data Jam will facilitate connections between our tree volunteers, tree stewardship stakeholders and civic technologists.  Together, participants will develop insights from the data that will help advance our understanding and management of the urban forest.

“I sponsored the Open Data Law because I knew that if you can count it, you can make something amazing out of it,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I look forward to seeing what everyone can do with the TreesCount data, and how we can adapt what we learn in this Data Jam for use with other civic datasets.”

“The Data Jam is a great opportunity to harness our bourgeoning tech sector to benefit one of our city’s greatest assets – the urban forest. With the million trees challenge completed, the city urban forestry is more vibrant than ever. But to ensure every tree gets the care and maintenance it needs, we must rely on the dedicated volunteers that would come together to generate solutions through this innovative hackathon,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Committee on Parks.

“It’s wonderful to see the NYC Parks Department partner with NYC’s greatest civic tech minds,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Committee on Technology. “‘Data Jam’ is an innovative strategy to use Open Data in order to better care for our parks.  I look forward to seeing the results of the robust data analysis of our City’s millions of trees. I encourage widespread participation in this civic hacking event.”

"Open Data must be a two way conversation between people and their government," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Events like Data Jam bring Open Data to the people and allow government to benefit from the experience and creativity of its citizens. Thank you to the Parks Department for showing that open data is about more than spreadsheets and pivot tables, and can be a fun and educational way to map our urban environment."

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