De Blasio Administration Announces Launch of New Smart City Technologies and Young Innovators Program in Brownsville

July 7, 2017

Brownsville Innovation Lab inaugurates new technologies and education programs aimed at modernizing public infrastructure, supporting neighborhood development, and bridging the digital divide

NEW YORK— Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño, and New York City Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett announced the roll-out of new smart city solutions and tech education programs for youth at Osborn Plaza in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The efforts will officially kick off on Saturday, July 8 and mark a key milestone for the Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab.

In March 2017, Brownsville was announced as home to the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. The tech equity initiative brings together community members, government, educators, and tech companies to help address neighborhood concerns with cutting-edge smart city technologies. Over the last four months, the City has partnered with Brownsville community leadersto run a series of strategic planning sessions focused on defining neighborhood needs and exploring how smart city technologies can help improve quality of life and support local economic development. Top priorities emerging from this work include improving safety and cleanliness of public spaces, and strengthening access to healthy foods.

"As technology evolves and becomes even more essential to our everyday urban lives, New York City only grows stronger,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are thrilled to see the launch of the Brownsville Innovation Labwhich will connect residentsto resources, dynamic education opportunities, and deliver a significant boost to economic development in the neighborhood.”

Neighborhood Innovation Labs present a unique opportunity for tech companies and universities to respond to community-identified needs and partner with government to test their technology solutions in a real-world environment with community feedback. The initial technology demonstrations being installed at Osborn Plaza in Brownsville include the newest iteration of the Bigbelly solar-powered smart waste and recycling system, which can hold up to five-times the amount of a regular trash bin and uses sensors to notify maintenance crews when it is full, and two Soofa smart benches, which use solar power to offer free charging for mobile devices.

“Being a smart city means ensuring our communities have access to technologies and programs that improve quality of life, create new jobs and support our City’s youth having skillsets to build their future,” said Miguel Gamino, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York. “This next phase of Neighborhood Innovations Labs is an important step in making sure all New Yorkers can participate in a modern world.”

"The de Blasio Administration is constantly working to bolster our innovation economy and make it more accessible to New Yorkers across the city,” said NYEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “The Neighborhood Innovation Lab will connect Brownsville residents with new smart cities technologies and programming to improve their quality of life and drive economic development in the neighborhood.”

New tech education programs for Brownsville youth will also kick off on Saturday, starting with a hands-on workshop where elementary and middle school students will learn about STEM concepts by building solar-powered toy cars. The workshops are part of a new “Young Innovators Program” supported by BNY Mellon to spur interest in technology careers and create pathways for young people to join and diversify New York City’s thriving digital economy. Over the course of a year, the program expects to reach roughly 1,000 Brownsville youth through interactive workshops and technology demonstrations. In addition, 36 high school-aged youth and high school graduates from Brownsville will be invited to participate in an intensive skill development and professional training program that uses project-based learning to teach the foundations of product design and application development. The new program will be managed by the Brownsville Community Justice Center and aims to serve as a bridge to connect young adults to industry partnerships like the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline.

“BNY Mellon is pleased to support the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation through this public-private partnership,” said Daisey Holmes, President, BNY Mellon Foundation. She added, “Our funding will allow the city to prototype a new tech-equity and skills development program designed exclusively for youth in Brownsville. This unique program will complement the launch of the first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and aligns with our focus on building the next generation’s skills and ability to contribute to society in a digital world.”

"Responsive neighborhood investment begins with a resident-driven community planning process. The Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville is the first step in prototyping and iterating on responsive technology that aims to improve the quality of life of tenured residents and create pathways for young people to join the digital economy" said Deputy Director of Brownsville Community Justice Center, Erica Mateo.  "We are proud to be a partnering on this initiative."

“This dynamic programming will provide a critically needed service to the youth in Brownsville and an opportunity to expand education opportunities in the neighborhood as a whole,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “The Neighborhood Innovation Lab was launched as a part of the Brownsville Plan, a holistic community plan developed in close coordination with community residents.  I want to thank our partners in government and the residents of Brownsville for continuously working with us to build diverse and livable neighborhoods.”

“We’re pleased to be participating in the Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab and working closely with community leaders to explore creative ways to keep this neighborhood safe and clean,” said Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. “As the City continues to make progress towards our goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we need to motivate and support every neighborhood to succeed. The Neighborhood Innovation Lab is a unique model bringing together City agencies, residents and technology companies to achieve our goals on a local level.”

“Innovation is at the heart of our sustainable future. The launch of the Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville—one of the City’s most culturally vibrant communities—will ensure New York City is at the leading edge of  technology and sustainability in a way that capitalizes on young talent and prioritizes smart, local solutions to global challenges,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

“The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice recognizes the impact that the improvement of public spaces has on the creation of safer and more welcoming precincts and neighborhoods within New York City. The Neighborhood Innovation Lab is a critical vehicle towards incorporating innovative use of technology into our crime prevention initiatives in the Mayors Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. MOCJ is looking forward to working together with the Mayor's Office of Technology and Innovation to pilot tech-enabled approaches that can accelerate progress towards neighborhood safety goals in Brownsville,” said Amy Sananman, Executive Director of the Mayors Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

“We are thrilled to be working together with the Brownsville community to address crucial needs, including access to healthy, affordable food” said Barbara Turk, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. “This is an exciting opportunity to bring the resources and entrepreneurship of NYC’s tech community to engage in building a more sustainable food system that works for all New Yorkers.”

“Neighborhood Innovation Labs are 21st century incubators for experimenting with how we can make our urban spaces more livable,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend all the partners involved in rolling out these new smart city and tech education tools in Brownsville, a Brooklyn neighborhood that has been historically neglected while facing generational poverty.”

NYS Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “A truly inclusive information-technology revolution means communities across New York having access to the technologies of tomorrow and the skills to design, create, and guide those technologies moving forward. Initiatives like the Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab represent a welcome, concrete effort to turn that vision of an inclusive tech sector into an on-the-ground reality. With the installation of smart city technologies at Osborn Plaza and the robust education programs for Brownsville youth, we see both action today and the planting of seeds to grow tomorrow’s technology innovators. Thanks to all the partners across government, industry, and nonprofit sectors making this important launch possible.”

The Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab will bring smart city technology to the heart of the community.  This will benefit the community by using technology to connect folks with educational and job opportunities,” said Latrice Walker, New York State Assembly Member for the 55th Assembly District. “We look forward to getting Brownsville connected to some of the most cutting edge technology that improves the quality of life.

“Smart city technologies can vastly improve quality of life and it’s important these technologies are developed with the input of residents,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the New City Council Committee on Technology. “I’m excited to see this phase of the Neighborhood Innovation Lab get underway after months of community consultation.  This next phase will provide a dynamic public testing ground and presents a fantastic opportunity to encourage youth interest in emerging technology.”

"Time after time technology has provided the keys to address societal and economic challenges," said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal. "As a city we must continue to invest in smart solutions that build our local communities and supply the educational tools that empower individuals in all corners of the five boroughs. I am proud that Brownsville, which had for so long not received investment, is the incubator of this innovation and progress."

"We welcome the opportunity that the City's first Neighborhood Innovation Lab brings to Brownsville, especially for our youth who will be engaged in new technology and education programs that the Lab offers" said Viola Greene-Walker, District Manager for Brooklyn Community Board 16

“We are thrilled by today’s launch of the first Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville, made possible through the public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) and BNY Mellon. This new community-based initiative will bring cutting-edge technology and interactive programming to young people in this historically underserved neighborhood, creating access to technology and the critical skills necessary for young people to thrive in our 21st Century workforce. The “Young Innovator’s Program” is just one of the many initiatives undertaken by the Mayor’s Office to build tech equity across the city and diversify the face of this sector. We are excited to see the impact of these innovative programs on Brownsville’s homegrown talent pool,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.

“There’s a great opportunity here to leverage technology to meet our needs of socio-economic and spatial justice” said Quardean Lewis-Allen, Founder and CEO of Made in Brownsville.  “Brownsville has no shortage of smart people, just a shortage of quality investment that actually serves the best interest of residents.  With residents at the helm, we hope that we can steer the benefits of smart technology investment in the right direction.”

"It is an honor to be part of NYC’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab” said Mary L. Tobin, Director of the Brownsville Partnership.  “The Brownsville Partnership views technological advances as key to our command center using data as a collective impact tool for neighborhood improvement, advancing employment outcomes for residents, and improving overall environmental conditions. We are excited for Brownsville to become the model for smart cities and its potential to improve neighborhood health, safety, and economic prosperity."

"When we think of the introduction of smart technologies for smart cities into communities, more often than not, this process has not included communities like Brownsville” said Pernell Brice III, Executive Director of the Dream Big Foundation. “And that is why New York city's 1st Neighborhood Innovation Lab and the Young Innovators Program is so important.  The Brownsville Community will not only have opportunities to test new smart technologies, but they will also be able to have a voice in determining what other type of technologies are introduced into their community.  Additionally, Brownsville youth interested in technology and entrepreneurial pathways through technology, will have tangible opportunities to further their learning through workshops throughout the upcoming year.  These initiatives are important first steps in ensuring that the Brownsville community, particularly youth, has equal access to these emerging technologies."

"The Knowledge House empowers and sustains a talent pipeline of technologists, entrepreneurs, and digital leaders, who will uplift their communities out of poverty” said Stephany Garcia, Program Manager of The Knowledge House.  “In collaboration with the Brownsville Community Justice Center, TKH has been offering tech and entrepreneurship skills training classes for the past few years to court-involved youth. Since TKH is based in the South Bronx, being part of the NIL board allowed us to learn more about the needs in the Brownsville community while also connecting deeper with the youth that we serve. We were also excited to see other organizations gather around the conversation of technology as a way to empower Brownsville residents with the skills and tools necessary to be the change they want to see in their neighborhood."

“The world has changed, society has changed, and our communities are changing. This Innovation Lab will be placing Brownsville on the forefront of that change in New York City” said Clinton Dyer, Project Coordinator for Legal Hand. “As a native of Brownsville it was my honor to understand and shape what opportunities this lab could bring to my community. As the Project Coordinator for Legal Hand it is my duty to disseminate that information to the local populace. I want my community members to be aware, and fully utilize the prospects to come. Tech is coming to Brownsville, and we are going to be ready for it.”

"With my family being a part of the Brownsville community for over 70 years it has been an honor to participate on the community advisory board for the Neighborhood Innovation Lab” said Lennie J. Carter, Founder and CEO of TruCircle.  “I grew up in Brownsville seeing the impact of drug abuse and violence in the 80's & 90's.  The Brownsville lab is giving hope to a neighborhood that often feels forgotten by opening the door to more community design opportunities in the growing civic technology sector, as it is rapidly changes our city."

“The last couple of months have been awesome working with so many special people and organizations to bring technology to Brownsville in a way that is responsive to our neighborhood” said Johnnymae Robinson, Project Coordinator for What About the Children.  “Our organization is excited to be part of this journey.”

“The Neighborhood Innovation Lab is inspiring because it connects cutting edge urban-tech startups and innovators to the heart of New York City’s Brooklyn community. The initiative yields a network of knowledge and opportunity for urban planners, citizens and most importantly inspires the youth of Brownsville,” said Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director of the Urban Tech Hub @ Grand Central Tech. “Our participation in the innovation lab is directly tied to the Hub’s mission statement of bettering the lives of Brooklyn youth while also providing opportunity for local urban tech entrepreneurs.”

"1776 is honored to partner with the City of New York on the Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and we look forward to connecting entrepreneurs with local community leaders to introduce transformative Smart Cities technologies, " said Evan Burfield, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer at 1776. "The Brownsville Neighborhood Innovation Lab will strengthen New York City's startup ecosystem by creating collaborative pilot partnership opportunities and 21st Century jobs. We are excited to introduce our diverse network of startups to the initiative and applaud the City for its leadership." 

"The Soofa bench is iconic and naturally starts a dialogue about smart, social, and sustainable neighborhoods” said Sandra Richter, Soofa cofounder and CEO.  “We are looking forward to getting insightful feedback from community members as part of the lab. This will inform our product development for both the Soofa Bench and our new digital bulletin board the Soofa Sign. At Soofa we drive a citizen focused approach to making smart cities and the Innovation Lab model fits perfectly with our philosophy."

“Bigbelly is pleased to be working with the Mayor’s Office of Innovation in New York City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab.  The Brownsville community will enjoy cleaner public spaces, while the area collection crews benefit from increased productivity by knowing when to collect,” said Brian Phillips, CEO of Bigbelly, a smart city solution provider.  “This multi-purpose platform will deliver even more value to the Brownsville community by providing free Internet access.  The stations deployed in this area have embedded Wi-Fi hotspots, giving nearby residents and visitors expanded Internet access in these key public spaces.”

“It has been our honor to work with the Brownsville community, the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and the NYC Economic Development Corporation to launch the Brownsville Innovation Lab.  Under the direction of Professor Constantine Kontokosta, CUSP’s research through this lab will allow for vast improvements in the observations, analyses, and models of various communities and allow for improved urban systems and quality of life in New York City,” said Dr. Steven E. Koonin, Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.

"The City reached out to us to help empower the community to make skeptical and educated decisions regarding technology. The goal is to bring community representatives into the room to vote and discuss when technology decisions that impact them are made. We want to help the Brownsville community build a 'smart city' that benefits them, not a 'menacing city" that happens to them," said  Matt Mitchel, Founder of CryptoHarlem.
"It has been an honor to collaborate with the Neighborhood Innovation Lab program" said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC. "For the past few years, we've been working to democratize access to civic technology, municipal data, and service design. Leveraging the wisdom of NYC's diverse neighborhoods will truly build smarter communities. We are excited to grow stronger, smarter, together."

Neighborhood Innovation Labs are a public-private partnership led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. Brownsville Community Justice Center serves as the lead community partner for the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab and Osborn Plaza serves as the anchor site for public programs and initial technology demonstrations. Members of the public interested in getting involved should visit: http://innovation.nyc.

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