January 13, 2021

Dear Fellow Survivor, WELCOME to 2021! 

Nothing can prepare us for the future better than the year we all just survived. As I listened to the year in review with Brian Lehrer, I found myself unexpectedly emotional. I didn’t realize how much pain and sorrow still courses through my veins for all who have lost family members, friends, neighbors, jobs, or for those who still face eviction. I didn’t realize how much anger I still have from centuries of injustices laid bare by our collective fight to say black lives do matter. I didn’t realize how many tears of sorrow I had for missed birthdays, hugs and opportunities to see my friends and family’s faces.

On behalf of our BetaNYC family, I wish you and your families, households, and hearts much peace, love, warmth, housing, bread, and happiness this year.

While we have many things to say about 2021, I wanted to share three ways in which 2020 has shaped BetaNYC for the year ahead:
  1. In May 2020, we formalized our Apprenticeship program to better meet the needs of individuals entering the career of public interest technology, and to ensure our profession is reflective of the communities we serve. At the end of January 2021, we’re excited to welcome our SEVENTH cohort of Civic Innovation Fellows. They will be trained to address digital and data literacy challenges we discovered through the pandemic.
  2. Though the pandemic, we diversified and expanded our digital and data literacy classes. Next week, we host an expanded data journey on parks data. In the coming months, we’ll host one on budget data. If you wanna learn more, join our meetup < >. FYI - During open data week, we’ll relaunch our Open Data Ambassadors program! Everyone will be doing the data this year!
  3. We are providing mutual aid via our research and data assistance help desk, staffed by our staff and apprentices. These RADARs help address complex open data and public interest technology needs. 
We will get through this, together.

Noel Hidalgo

Recent News

Radar Roundup

Back in 2017, we started experimenting with a help desk form within Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's Office. In 2018, we formalized it into a process and practice we now call Research and Data Assistance Requests or… RADARs for short. Perhaps you have heard us talking about this?

As the pandemic hit, we saw an opportunity to expand access to RADARs beyond the MBPO and test our growing capacity to service needs of other elected officials, community boards, nonprofits, and community based organizations. It has been a success. In 2020 alone, our Civic Innovation Lab serviced 46 RADARS. Hats off to our small team of staff and apprentices who work on them. We’re ready for you 2021, get at us!

Here are a few highlights from 2020...

 Where and to whom have grants been allocated by the MBPO?

Manhattan Borough President Office (MBPO) Budget engaged BetaNYC to help create a transparent and sustainable analysis of grant recipients over the entire history of the administration. This prototype breaks down grant allocation by Community Board, Council District, year, and Project Type. We will continue to refine it over the next few months.

 What’s up with helicopter noise in Manhattan?

During the pandemic, members of the community have increasingly reported on social media and 311 about helicopter noise. However this issue has been starting to grow even before the pandemic, as tourism and charter flights start to rise especially from New Jersey. BetaNYC worked with the MBPO to look into this issue, as part of their Helicopter Task Force. Check out our slides from our December presentation. 

 How is solid waste transferred by rail in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island?

In collaboration with the Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board (Queens SWAB) and Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES), we created a map to highlight how some of the solid waste is moved out of the Long Island to landfills in Ohio and other states. Waste moving along these rails, processed, and held at yards (or by residential neighborhoods) often causes “unwholesome air quality and community health issues”, if not transported properly. 

 How are CitiBike trips in lower Manhattan faring?

Working with Manhattan Community Board 1 and expanding on a script created by Chris Whong of Qri we compared the citi bike ridership for docks in Lower Manhattan to see the impact of the pandemic downtown.

 Can we modernize Queens’ Community Board application process?

Working with staff of the Queens Borough President’s Richard Donovan’s Office, BetaNYC is helping modernize, streamline, and analyze the borough’s Community Board membership, prototyping a new application form in Airtable.

 What and where are Manhattan CB 4 residents’ greatest concerns?

MBPO and Manhattan Community Board 4 engaged BetaNYC to help them distill the results of the largest community survey to date. We imported the data into Airtable and created customized filters and views for the Board to make use of the responses at the committee level.

 What is the response and impact of Open Streets on Brooklyn CB 1?

North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition created a survey to gauge the public reception of these open streets. Importing the survey data from Airtable we were able to map the distribution of responses throughout NYC, along open streets and according to various political and geographical boundaries. This project has also expanded to include 311 responses along Brooklyn CB1 opens streets in 2020, the influence of Open restaurants in Brooklyn community board 1 on curb space use in collaboration with Coord. In addition we looked at areas assigned for vehicle use versus park spaces and finally vehicle ownership along open streets.



Tomorrow at 10PM is the deadline for our NYC Open Data Week 2021 Call for Proposals. ALSO we are looking for SPONSORS!!

NYC Open Data Week is an annual week-long festival celebrating New York City and NYC Open Data. For 2021, we are gathering online from March 6th to 14th to explore open data with YOU. The NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and BetaNYC are looking for virtual event ideas, and where appropriate, socially-distanced outdoor experiences around open data. ANYONE is welcome to submit and your proposal does not need to be fully baked in order to submit by Thursday AT 10PM. Learn more and submit a proposal here.


CALL FOR SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS! Is your organization interested in sponsorship? We want to hear from you and tell you about opportunities to support the festival through swag, media sponsorships, virtual networking support, event demos, and more! Email or reply to this email. 


Take an Open Data Journey with us to the Parks next week!

In this virtual event, we’ll show you how to explore NYC Open Data to better understand what is happening in the parks and how they are maintained and funded. Grab your picnic basket and join us for a virtual excursion to some of our favorite places to getaway in NYC!


BetaNYC Open Data Journeys 004: Parks and Recreation w Council Member Koo, Chair of the Council Committee on Parks
When: Tuesday, January 19th at 2PM ET
RSVP: < >

We are halfway there. Thank you for supporting us!!

This year we are raising funds each month so we can continue offering paid employment opportunities to Civic Innovation Fellows and Apprentices to learn and grow with us. We are so appreciative of everyone who has donated. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for believing in us, our students, and what we do to improve NYC.

If you haven't joined us yet and would like to spread some love and luck in 2021, make a $21 contribution or what you can today at Thank you!

What's up?

With so much content out there, it's fun to hear what people have been into lately. Here are some picks from our team and community. Submit yours to next month's newsletter here.


The Department of City Planning has a new Housing Database!

Check out the Accessible Virtual Meetings Guide from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to use!

NYC City Council Data Team’s Parks in NYC website illustrates our parks with open data < >

Fabriders provides a fabulous Data & Storytelling Workshop 

Interested in green canopies? Treepedia is here to help! 

How do you invest public dollars? Check out Chicago's Million Dollar Blocks

How are taxis faring these days? Taxi and Ridehailing Usage in New York City Thank you Marcel Dejean for sharing! 


What white allies can do to make cycling equitable for all riders featuring an epic interview with NYC’s bike mayor, Courtney Williams. 

Civic engagement for the win! Jessica Parks highlights the jump in attendance at Community Board meetings after going virtual. (P.S. Noel Hidalgo is featured!) 

COMMUNITY BOARD APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN... AND DIGITAL (!) We helped newly inaugurated Queens Borough President Donovan Richards go digital. This is the fourth CB application to go online. Read more about it in Patch and apply to join your CB in QueensBrooklyn, ManhattanStaten Island, and The Bronx. (You still have to mail your application in if you live in the Bronx.)

Reflecting on 2020, Looking to 2021 from the Civic Service Designers at NYC Opportunity

Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line by Stuart A. Thompson for the New York Times

African-American Resistance to the COVID-19 Vaccine Reflects a Broader Problem via Jelani Cobb for The New Yorker

Why Are Shootings Up in New York City? We Asked Four People on the Front Lines by Reuven Blau for The City

The gauntlet of New York City politics awaits Andrew Yang from Politico

COVID-19 Housing Crisis: The Worst is Yet to Come as part of the COVID Data Analysis series by NYC Opportunity’s Poverty Research Team

State of the Chains 2020 from the Center for an Urban Future

4 Ways Racial Inequity Harms American Schoolchildren by Jeffrey Pierre for NPR

Ángel Díaz explores how connected devices have caused a resurgence of privacy and civil rights concerns.

Lessons From The Dr. Jill Biden Controversy by Ann Kirschner for Forbes


Bagman by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

How to Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty (mental health reminder!!)


The Brian Lehrer Show - WNYC's Time Capsule: A Special Episode

The War on Cars - Mayor Pete at the Drive-Thru

Bag Ladiez - Didn't We have a Coup Last Week?

Share what content you're creating or consuming this month in our next newsletter! Submit podcasts, articles, events, etc. here.

 🤩 Accounts we’re following

Ángel Díaz

Civic Tech Field Guide

Code for Nashville #BLM

Citizens Union

Data & Society

Data Clinic @ Two Sigma

Data Through Design

Doug Gordon

Kelly X Jin

NYC Dept of Citywide Administrative Services

Rachel Holliday Smith

Sid Thee Fussell

#️⃣ Hashtags we're watching










📅 Upcoming Events

Jan 18  Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Jan 19 at 2pm BetaNYC Open Data Journey to NYC Parks with Council Member Koo

Jan 19 at 1pm NYCC Committee on Technology Hearing: Oversight - Smart City 

Jan 22 BetaNYC Civic Innovation Fellows Alumni Event (Alums check your email!!)

Jan 22 at 10am NYCC Committee on Technology Hearing: Oversight - Increasing Senior Access to Technology

Mar 6-14 NYC Open Data Week

Mar 8th Mozilla Festival

March Digital Regulatory Reporting Techsprint

📢 Announcements and Opportunities

This space is for community announcements, job opportunities, and requests. We are here to help get your message out. To contribute to our next newsletter listings, be sure it is mission aligned and submit it here.

Civic Fact of the Month

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his vision for a different world in his annual State of the Union speech, also known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. Learn more about the evolution of the landmark speech and revisit the speech to celebrate its 80th anniversary! Also worth noting - Eleanor Roosevelt took this speech to be the foundation of the universal declaration of human rights!


Contribute to next month's newsletter.

Our next newsletter goes out to 3,339+ readers & 5,700+ Meetup members. Have you got something that you’d like to amplify to the BetaNYC community? Submit to the Message.

Have joined the BetaNYC community? 

Stay up to date with BetaNYC, our events and other civic techies in our MeetupSlack, and Facebook Group.
And, spread some love, er money. Donate $21 to our 20$21 campaign this month to employ Civic Innovation Fellows and Apprentices to continue growing with us this year. 

✌️Peace, openness and gratitude.
Twitter Twitter
Facebook Facebook
YouTube YouTube
Website Website
GitHub GitHub

BetaNYC is a 501c3 organization supported by
Fund for the City of New York, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and YOU!
Please consider donating to BetaNYC to sustain our programming.

Creative Commons  BY  2021 BetaNYC, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences