February 11, 2021

Dear Friends in February!

The first week of February brought a ton of snow. As I watched essential workers clear the roads with characteristic dignity and grace, it occurred to me that, this year, their work is largely for other essential workers - since so many of the rest of us are staying home. Reflecting on this lopsided reality, more than ever I admire the work and research aimed at understanding the effects of the pandemic and supporting the individuals, families, and communities most hard-hit. And alongside my dedicated colleagues, I aspire to contribute to this effort at BetaNYC.

February is an awesome month. It may be the underdog month, with a weird spelling and being the shortest, but it’s also Black History Month!, and the month of chocolate! (and my bday!). So for the remaining days of it, BetaNYC devotes this newsletter to our 70 Civic Innovation Fellows and Alumni, who consistently amaze us with their drive and follow-through toward making the City and world a better place. 

We just welcomed our seventh cohort of six dedicated Civic Innovation Fellows, who come to us through the CUNY Service Corps. Since the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2014, CUNY Service Corps has been placing select students in public and non-profit organizations throughout the City for paid employment. Due to the tumult caused by the pandemic, Service Corps took one semester off to recalibrate, but they are back in action for Spring 2021. 

Civic Innovation Fellowship program history:

CIF 2014: Gale Brewer partners with CUNY Service Corps to launch the first class of Civic Innovation Fellows. Insight: there’s tons of potential in putting bright CUNY students to work on bringing open data to community boards, and they seek a full-time partner for future cohorts.

CIF 2015: Enter Noel! He and MBPO’s Tech Policy analyst organize fellows to conduct the first comprehensive gap analysis of community boards’ data and technology needs, laying groundwork research for the next several years.

CIF 2016: BP Brewer and staff want a tool called BoardStat to make 311 more accessible for Community Boards. Like a small army in the MBPO North Conference Room, we create BoardStat with the help of John Paul Farmer and Adam Hecktman of Microsoft Civic, who flew in from Chicago on days' notice. We formalize the open data curriculum into a 100 page book. 

CIF 2017: We re-tool the curriculum into four (4) public classes, and teach the entire series at the MBPO and Civic Hall, and create more tools for Community Boards and the public: Boundaries Map, SLAM, Tenants Map, and AHV Dashboard. Fellows develop webinars for BoardStat, and update the original Community Boards Needs report through in-person interviews at eleven (11) Manhattan community district offices.

CIF 2018: Through an MBPO introduction, BetaNYC leads the CS4All Hack League, at which fellows assist over the year. We do a demographic analysis of all Manhattan CBs compared to their districts, and launch RADAR (an intake system for Research and Data Assistance Requests), processing 22 requests from MBPO and CB staff in its first nine months. Kate leads a super successful NYC School of Data.

CIF 2019: Fellows update the demographic analysis of Community Boards with Zhi, and partner with the MBPO Land Use team and NYU Wagner on the Vulnerable Religious Facilities Task Force. Noel, Kate, Gabby, Onedeige, Srijana and fellows put on the largest and most memorable NYC School of Data to date.

CIF 2020: Due to the pandemic, we have a small virtual summer cohort in 2020 who create ArcGIS story maps through a five-week Open Data bootcamp, co-created by Zhi and Onedeige.  Topics include Evictions, Public School attendance during Covid, and the health of NYC street trees.

CIF 2021: Our new fellows are going through a six week bootcamp to become Open Data Ambassadors to deliver virtual open data classes during and after NYC Open Data Week 2021. Zhi, Onedeige and Gabby process RADARs, as we receive our 89th.

So with that, there’s a rich history behind and future in front of us. Thank you for your continuing engagement and support; let’s keep at it to use data where we need it most, increase civic engagement, and make a collaborative, transparent, and caring City for all.

— Emily Goldman, Director of NYC Civic Innovation Fellows Program
Click to learn more about the 2021 Spring Fellows!

Recent News

🔔 NYC Open Data Week 2021 - Join us from March 6th to 14th. Plus, a Call for Volunteers!

The countdown is on for the 5th annual NYC Open Data Week! Want to join us? SUBSCRIBE for updates on the program. Also, the Open Data Week Team is looking for virtual volunteers from March 6th to 14th to help facilitate this year’s festivities. Want to meet awesome people? Read more here and apply!

🦊 Tickets for Mozfest are live!

Our second favorite civic tech festival is taking place at the same time as NYC Open Data Week (our first favorite) and we are SO excited to bring our communities together for two weeks of awesomeness. Grab your tickets to Mozfest and join us March 8th to 19th!

🤖 BetaNYC’s Testimony at City Council Technology Committee Oversight Hearing on the Smart City

For the last decade or so, we’ve been told that the smart city is around the corner. We’ve been told that smart trash cans will minimize overflowing trash cans, smart traffic lights will eliminate congestion, cameras will keep our kids safe, microphones will tell us where guns are being fired, and artificial intelligence will tell us what problem to solve next. Read our full testimony here.

💉 How to vaccinate everybody: The city must fix massive failures to communicate and coordinate

In New York City, we are seeing, in real time, what a massive government technical and design failure looks like. Read the full Op-Ed in the NY Daily News By NOEL HIDALGO and HANA SCHANK

🥯 BetaBagels returns!

We didn't have 75 bagels in a room packed full of people at the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, but we DID have a packed Zoom room and some of us ate bagels! We heard from Katherine Benjamin, Deputy CTO for Digital Services at the NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, about how the city is becoming more user-centered, agile and open amid a global movement of digital government transformation. It was a great presentation, check out the event recording and explore our archive of #BetaBagels here!

🏞️ We took an Open Data Journey to the Park with Council Member Koo

At a time when the for outdoor space in NYC is at a high, how do we ensure that people have access to safe, clean and well-functioning parks? In this Open Data Journey, we introduce NYC Open Data on parks and show you how to explore it to better understand what is happening inside of them, how they are maintained and how they are funded. View the event recording to brush up on NYC Parks and explore our archive of Open Data Journeys here!

💼 Kelly Jin and Gary Johnson inspired alums at the Civic Innovation Fellows Alumni Event (on Kelly's last day at MODA <3 )

Every couple of months our CIF alums get together for a careers-focused event where they engage with fabulous people in the public interest technology space. If you're interested in speaking to a group of amazing civic innovation graduates, get in touch with the CIF Alumni Committee at < > < >. Thank you, Kelly and Gary, for your tricks of the trade, honesty and attention this month! All the best for your next role, Kelly!!

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.


THREAD!! Dan Hon @hondanhon: I see we're talking about volunteer vaccination websites again, thanks to this (imho) irresponsible NYT article about "building a new [vaccination website] for $50". Some observations and references...

Supply chain transparency! In a win for open data and product traceability, VF Corp publicly disclosed their list of suppliers last week, and published over 40 of their most iconic product maps online (think Vans Slip-On's and The North Face Parkas), using Sourcemap's open mapping software.

Parklets! Openbox and Stae worked together to create A Look at the Human Impact of Parklets, an interactive impact study that provides an accessible look into the data and stories behind San Francisco’s parklets.

Organizing a virtual event? Check out the Accessible Virtual Meetings Guide from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities! 

Speaking at or organizing a virtual event? The Pudding created a Speaker Rider for Meaningfully Inclusive Events because journalism didn’t have one. It's awesome READ IT.


How Black women became New York’s power players via City & State

Technology policy priorities for the Biden era via Tech Policy Press

Lessons learned from transitioning from private to public sector by Dana Chisnell

The 2021 New York City Power 100 via City & State NY 

Poet Amanda Gorman's call for unity and peace via NPR

Charles Curtis: The first Native American Vice President via CBS


Living in Data: A Citizen's Guide to a Better Information Future by Jer Thorp

Artificial Unintelligence How Computers Misunderstand the World by By Meredith Broussard

Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, by Maria Hinojosa

America's First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights by Jerry Mikorenda


Girl and The Gov, The Podcast, a platform for young womxn to engage with the evolving political sphere.

Home is a Human Right Episode #1: Marcus Moore and Sabaah Folayan, a listening series about housing in New York City featuring New Yorkers who have lost a home or are fighting to keep one. 

The Primal Screen, examining the pandemic's effect on working mothers in America via the NYTimes

Richard Florida: Remote Work and "The Rise of the Rest" via The Strong Towns Podcast

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

 🤩 Accounts we’re following

Beeck Center

Brooklyn Rail 

Cynthia Conti-Cook

Digital Equity Laboratory

Grant Pezeshki

Greta Byrum

NYC School of Data

Office of the Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams

City of New York College of Staten Island's Technology Incubator

Dan Hon

Gary Johnson

#️⃣ Hashtags we're watching









📅 Upcoming Events


Feb 14 WE LOVE YOU <3 

Feb 17 at 10am  Public Hearing: Addressing Equity, Access to the Vaccine, and Scheduling Vaccination Appointments Online in NYC — sign up to testify here

Feb 17 at 12pm  Lunchtime Workshop: Choosing a Bicycle, hosted by the Queens Public Library

Feb 20 at 10am NYC Black Representation Bike Tour - Manhattan with The Brown Bike Girl

Feb 25 at 12pm  The 15-Minute City hosted by the Municipal Art Society of New York

Feb 25 at 7:30pm  Home is a Human Right, a new series about housing in NYC

Feb 26 at 10am  The Economic Benefits of 5G, a panel discussion addressing some of the biggest questions and concerns regarding 5G in New York presented by City & State and Crown Castle

Feb 27 at 2pm  Cycling in the City: Your Bike as Transportation, hosted by the Queens Public Library

Mar 6 at 10am Harlem Redlining Bike Tour: Understanding Where/Why the Bike Lanes End with The Brown Bike Girl

Mar 6-14  NYC Open Data Week 2021 🥳 !!!!!!!!!!!! 

Mar 8-19  Mozilla Festival 2021

May 12-13 Code for America Summit 2021

📢 Announcements & Opportunities 📢

This space is for community announcements, job opportunities, and requests. To contribute to our next newsletter listings, be sure it is mission aligned and submit it here.

The Open Data Week Team is looking for volunteers to support virtual event organizers and curators directly at Open Data Week 2021. Learn more and apply by February 26th!

KPF is hiring a Senior Front-end Developer Consultant. For more information, please contact Brandon Pachuca at

NYCHA is seeking Waste Management Interns. Email by Tuesday February 16th!

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods is seeking tech vendors to build out a platform for fairer mortgage lending for low- to moderate-income homeowners of color.

New Visions for Public Schools is hiring a data analyst

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum is accepting proposals for creating accessible tools for virtual museum experiences. Finalists will receive $10,000! 

Studio Jayne is seeking a full-stack web app developer to build out “That’s Sus!”, a social impact game or teens ages 12-15 combatting sex trafficking in North America. Read more and apply here!

Vaccine transportation! If you are older than 65, have a #COVIDVaccine appointment scheduled AND you can not afford transportation, NYC 311 now has a list of resources for you

Are you between the ages of 9 and 24? Cast your vote by 2/21 to decide how to spend $100k through #ItsOurMoney on the Civic Engagement Commissions new digital platform on Decidim. Tell the youth!!

Civic Fact of the Month:

HER NAME WAS ELIZABETH JENNINGS GRAHAM. Do you know her story? 100 years before Rosa Parks stood up for justice, a 24-year-old Black New Yorker stood her ground on a streetcar. With courage and perseverance, she won the first recorded legal victory for equal rights on public transportation.


Source: New York Transit Museum

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Want to support what we do? 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 — BetaNYC
(Know someone who loves civic tech? Fwd this newsletter to them for Valentine's Day.) (Know someone who loves civic tech? Fwd this newsletter to them for Valentine's Day.)
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