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Oct. 16, 2015, 1:19 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.nydailynews.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   October 16, 2015

The city of New York is getting into the hyperlocal publishing business. The city recently announced it is beta testing a portal for “neighborhood-specific information to New Yorkers.”

In the early phase, New Yorkers will have to go to Neighborhoods.nyc, then search for the area where they live. But the city says by next year you can expect to see sites like astoria.nyc, crownheights.nyc, upperwestside.nyc, or bedford-stuyvesant.nyc. The city says they reserved around 400 neighborhood domains across the five boroughs. (The city was one of a number seeking new top-level domains like .nyc back in 2012.)

According to the city, the sites’ purpose is to deliver important, timely, information on a block-by-block level. So if, for instance, you lived in Cobble Hill, you could get information on subway and bus service or look up polling places and farmers’ markets. And, yes, a news feed provides updates on public health issues like restaurant inspections or trash pickup. The backbone of the sites will be an open data feed from the city itself, which can show everything from construction permits to 311 requests.

While it’s not unusual for a municipality of any size to offer up neighborhood information for new and longtime residents, New York’s neighborhoods site seem to share as much with the push for hyperlocal journalism we’ve seen in recent years than an ordinary civic data project.

Neighborhoods.nyc most resembles EveryBlock, one of the earliest sites to combine civic data and community discussion. The one-time Knight Foundation backed-project was acquired, closed, and eventually reborn in a new shape under Comcast.

Cracking local news at the micro scale has been a challenge for many companies in recent years. Some have resulted in large-scale attempts to reach like the rise, fall, and (alleged) rise of Patch. Others, like DNA Info, have gradually expanded in scope, going beyond need-to-know info, and now branching out to new cities.

Many more sites have been the invention of journalists looking to fill information gaps in their community. Earlier this week, the Lab’s Joseph Lichterman wrote about Hoodline, a new site with the ambition of covering 24 neighborhoods in San Francisco. Their secret weapon? Combining reporting with data scrapped from city websites.

What happens next could be interesting. Rather than keep all of this automated through a data pipe, the city is asking community groups in each neighborhood to take ownership of the sites and populate it with even more local information:

During the 90-day beta launch, neighborhood organizations and local development corporations can apply to license the domain for their local area. Qualified organizations can become administrators of their community’s site, and customize the template with additional content and tools, allowing the neighborhood sites to reflect the needs and interests of the community. Local businesses and organizations will also be able to embed components of the site onto their own websites.

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