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Cornell urban tech hub issues recommendations for ‘rebooting’ NYC

The Jacobs Urban Tech Hub has put forward 10 tech-related recommendations that will enable the city’s administration to more effectively use technology to serve all New Yorkers equitably and efficiently.

The recommendations for NYC leaders are based around 10 specific technology concepts
The recommendations for NYC leaders are based around 10 specific technology concepts

The Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech has released proposals from its Rebooting NYC: An Urban Tech Agenda for the Next Administration that it believes will lead to a more equitable and efficient New York City.


The strategic recommendations set out how the mayor, city council, comptroller, public advocate and borough presidents can maximise the benefit of new technologies to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.


Technology concepts


The recommendations, authored by a team led by Rohit ‘Rit’ Aggarwala, the hub’s senior urban tech fellow, include 10 specific technology concepts covering areas such as protecting data privacy to improving city streets. They include examples of case studies of where these policies have been successfully implemented in other cities.


The recommendations were developed by the Urban Tech Hub team after extensive research, including consulting with more than 120 individuals from New York City’s civic and tech communities, and experts from across the country and around the world. The final recommendations will be released in late summer following a public comment and review period.


Launched in 2020, the hub brings together researchers, entrepreneurs, community organisations, industry leaders and government officials to develop new approaches to addressing urban challenges facing cities today.


“The Urban Tech Hub was created to advance a dialogue with New Yorkers about how we can responsibly and equitably use new technologies to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in cities,” said founding director Michael Samuelian.


He added: “By bringing together experts in urban planning, civic engagement, government and technology, we can leverage the power of technology to make cities stronger, fairer and more resilient. The innovative proposals in Rebooting NYC build on the success of existing government initiatives and identifies bold new ideas for New Yorkers to consider as we head into a new generation of leadership at City Hall.”


The recommendations include:


Bring data accountability to New York City with a municipal privacy law and oversight: Rebooting NYC proposes proposes that the city council enacts an overarching municipal privacy law to ensure that data collected in the public realm be used only in ways consistent with the public’s understanding of how and why it was collected, and the establishment of a central oversight office for privacy and data accountability.


Bridge the digital divide while improving city-wide grid resiliency with a new Broadband Development Corporation: Rebooting NYC proposes the creation of a Broadband Development Corporation to oversee the development of a citywide open access fibre broadband network as part of a citywide network of utility tunnels to ensure long-term grid resiliency.

“The Urban Tech Hub was created to advance a dialogue with New Yorkers about how we can responsibly and equitably use new technologies to improve the quality of life”

Optimise urban systems through the accelerated adoption of new technologies that make city streets and buildings safer and better: Rebooting NYC advocates for the expansion of digital traffic enforcement to make streets safer, kerbside management systems to make parking more predictable and reduce double parking. It also proposes the re-designing and expansion of the bike lane network to welcome a wide range of urban-scale, slow-speed vehicles such as cargo bikes, scooters, and small autonomous transit and delivery vehicles.


Building in New York City is very expensive, not as safe as it should be, and more disruptive than necessary: Rebooting NYC proposes a set of ideas to make construction safer, less intrusive and less expensive. These include: use of drones for visual inspections of building facades to improve facade and worker safety while reducing the number of unnecessary sidewalk sheds; and to streamline the building permit and inspection processes by using technology to check plans for building code compliance.


Reduce barriers to public benefits by making it easier to sign up for, and navigate, the city’s public benefits system: Rebooting NYC proposes a “data locker” system through which New Yorkers can gather their information and share it in a standardised way with multiple agencies, and establish a universal approach to applying for services across all City programmes.


Improve representation in local government by making public meetings more accessible and participatory: Rebooting NYC advocates for continuing the option of virtual attendance and the introduction of new technologies such as auto-translation, and key-word alerts to make meetings more accessible and representative.


Master’s degree


The Jacobs Urban Tech Hub includes a first-of-its-kind dual master’s degree focused on making cities more resilient, connected, and equitable. Jacobs welcomed its first graduate students last year.


It provides students the opportunity to pursue emerging sectors in urban innovation including mobility and transportation, real estate/property tech and construction, logistics and delivery, energy and other utilities, intelligent buildings and infrastructure, civic and urban community technology, and other areas of technology transformation in urban settings.


The full report and comment on the draft recommendations can be read here.


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