My testimony to NYC’s Council on #SafeStreetsMap Bill

Code for America / BetaNYC testimony for INT NO 1163-2013 at Transportation Committee on 10 October 2013.

Good morning Chairman Vacca and Transportation Committee. It is a great honor to address you and represent New York City’s technology community. Particularly, a rather active group of technologists – the civic technologist.

I am Noel Hidalgo. I work for Code for America, co-founded BetaNYC, and am on the City’s .NYC advisory board.

Code for America envisions a government that works by the people, for the people, in the 21st Century.

BetaNYC is a Code for America brigade in New York City. Additionally, we are members of the New York City Transparency Working Group that got the best Open Data Law passed. Our City’s Open Data law.

Every week, my community gathers around tables and computers to build better interfaces for government. We are comprised of hackers, mappers, and yackers. We have a community programming night – “a hacknight” – at NYU Rudin where we explicitly explore bicycle related data. In general, we take the City’s open data and put it to good use.

With our NYU Rudin event, we are concerned about safe streets for everyone – pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. Because of poor, inconsistent, and non-existent crime and crash data creating tools to make safer streets is next to impossible.

As community members, we do not have the data to help citizens make smarter safety choices.

As City Council members, you do not have the data to know what is happening on the streets. Yet, the data exists!

In 2008, Washington DC challenged its civic technologists to start building apps on civic data. In its first year alone, 10 apps were created to build a safer DC. In 2009, NYC implemented BigApps – a program challenging its civic technologists to build apps on civic data. BigApps has gone through four iterations and fostered New York City to be New TECH City. Yet, because of NYC’s poor public safety data, we have not had the opportunity to build tools to make better and safer decisions.

I should point out that Ontodia/Pediacities, a winning BigApps team is here with us.

New York City needs your help. Because of NYC’s poor public safety data, we can not build tools for community boards to have insight into their communities. Because of NYC’s poor public safety data, we can not build tools to have immediate insight into crimes and crashes in your City Council districts.

Two weeks ago, when the Mayor’s office produced its “Open Data Plan,” NYPD did not include raw crime nor crash data. Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, and our nation’s capital, Washington DC, produce open, detailed, and frequent crime and crash data for developers to integrate into their tools and generate insight.

We call on the council to amend this bill to cover crime AND crash data. Additionally, this bill needs to be amended to move away from legislating a user interface (a map) and focus on the raw and fundamental data. We need crime and crash data geolocated and published in a daily, disaggregated basis. The raw data needs to be openly available and frequently updated.

We need this data to build a city by the people, for the people, and for the 21st Century.

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