Tag Archives: nyc

Day in the life of the NYC Taxi Data

29 Jul

Here is the quick story of the NYC Taxi data. It’s a good example of how messy and fun civic technology can be.


What’s next for this data set? Got something interesting to build off of it?

DIY Libraries

9 Aug


DIY Libraries

Awesome! Urban Hacker John Locke from NYC has been fabricating and installing DIY Payphone Lending Libraries around Morningside Heights. I’m really feeling them because they turn this unused, deprecated, relic of the city into something equally antiquated, yet fresh. The little libraries are getting a lot of love lately from the press, yet this interview in World Literature Today is the coolest review.

I’m excited about this project because it’s part of something bigger that John and his crew are trying to do, The Department of Urban Betterment, which is like Hack Your City NYC. What up DUB, lets link!

DIY Libraries are important because they install a little shelf of pride in a neighborhood, by showing that neighbors are chill enough to ‘give one, take one’. They are also easy enough to build that you can replicate them anywhere in the world and since people have been building bookshelves since forever, they’ve gotten crazy stylish too. Building a DIY library in your neighborhood, inspired by the local architecture can produce infinite, unique designs that can be thrown up in a day.


Poetic Civility.

A crew of Urban Hackers in in Puerto Alegre, Brazil have been putting in DIY Libraries at a few of their Bus Stops. They started as one DIY project that got lots of respect, so the city and some nonprofits sponsored them to be built in other neighborhoods. A great trend that a lot of these DIY Urban Design projects have had lately is posting easy to follow instructions so that other like minded neighbors around the world can replicate these good ideas.

In the video below, this crew in Brazil has stepped up the design of the DIY libraries by encouraging local artists to help build and decorate the shelfs.


Colombia, always on point, has a bunch of small libraries in there public parks. The local gov took an easy, cheap idea and ran with it. They have over a hundred of them throughout the country.

More DIY Libraries

World Literature Today 10 micro libraries.

Embark NYC wins best Transit App

9 Feb

The App Quest
The New York MTA hosted an App Quest contest to see what the tech community could build on top of recently opened transit data. This contest arose from the newly revealed experience that hackers and designers can create apps that are more attractive and accessible, for far cheaper and much quicker than transit agencies themselves can.

Embark NYC

iBART Custom Map
The winner of the the App Quest contest was Embark NYC. Embark is an app that routes you all over NYC and looks great. I’ve been using their iBart app for San Francisco for a couple years now. I’ve always admired their custom map of the BART system.

My work, Urban Mapping, also entered an app into the App Quest contest. We developed and submitted TravelShed, a visual way to see how far you can travel on transit in a given amount of time. I didn’t personally work on it at all, yet I think its a great iteration of the isochrone map.

A runner up of mention is NotifyME. Its an Android app that will send you updates if the trains you usually take are delayed. I’m mentioning this one because I just built the same sort of service as a text message app, here in SF. Check it out at Late BART.

Taking Back the Streets of NYC

14 Oct

When your city understands that its shape and feel should be focused on people instead of cars, there is less need for us to do our DIY Urban Design hacks in the middle of the night. This video is about such a place. All the city agencies in New York have been working together to reclaim the streets from the automobile.

The changes they’ve made in just three years are incredible. Some are small improvements like just painting the asphalt differently, while others such as the protected bike lanes are expensive infrastructure projects. All together though they have a serious impact on quality of life, transit speed, the environment, as well as public healthy and safety.

DJ Kool Herc

19 Jun

Dj Kool HercHe was a young Jamaican American and he just wanted to throw a party. His uncle had given him the best sound system in the neighborhood, yet he had no venue to play at and he was broke. What Kool Herc chose to do could have been done anywhere, but because it happened in New York, he forever changed the world.

Kool Herc brought the party to the people and set up his sound in the streets.

“To accommodate larger crowds, Herc moved his parties further up Sedgwick Avenue into Cedar Park. He had seen construction workers hooking up power by tapping the light posts, and so he started doing the same. “I had a big Macintosh amp. That thing cost a lot of money and pumped a lot of juice. It was 300 watts per channel. As the juice started coming, man, the lights start dimming …  The results shocked the borough.” Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, pg 78,  by Jeff Chang.

“At dusk a van rolled up with Kool Herc and his crew. His boys dragged a couple of portable tables into the schoolyard through a hole in the fence, while Herc unscrewed a plate in the base of a light pole and hooked a heavy industrial extension cord into an outlet inside. Soon crates of records, large speaker cabinets, and Dj equipment were set up and Herc started getting busy. ” – Hip Hop America, pg 26, by George Nelson.

He hacked the city and fathered the global movement of hip-hop.

Kool Herc had that hacker mind state though, he was the first DJ to buy two of the same record and play the break over and over, turning a five second snippet into a five minutes of something brand new. He also custom built his sound to be louder than any of the other local djs in the Bronx. Yet the act of hacking into the city’s hidden innards and demanding that it serve him, a young black man from the Bronx ghetto in the 70’s, is why Kool DJ Herc is the godfather of Hack Your City.