Compiling information in a central location is the first step toward understanding the size and scope of the data that is in the city’s possession. “It’s the equivalent of going to a library, and know you have a card catalog you can go to,” Noel Hidalgo, executive director of the Open NY Forum, a civic data meetup group that was part of the coalition of non-profits that advocated for the law.
In the meantime, some omissions from the new lode are glaring. For example, precinct-level crime data, released on a weekly basis by the NYPD, does not appear to be housed in the portal. The NYPD currently hosts that information on its own website, and makes it available only in PDF format, which makes it nearly impossible to extract and use the data to track crime trends and patterns.
Local Law 11 requires agencies to convert data posted on the web portal to a format that can be used for other purposes, like building applications and running analyses. “Not having it in machine-readable format is almost a disservice, or it’s creating an obtuse government,” said Hidalgo. “Willingly creating data that is not easily consumed by computers, you’re not in 21st century.”