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Databook named a “Top Websites for Urban Planning – 2021” by Planetizen

We were proud, and quite surprised, to see that the Databook was named one of 2021’s “Top Websites for Urban Planning” by Planetizen, a popular publication in the field of urban planning that’s been around for over 20 years.

Choice quotes below.

WeGovNYC, a civic technology initiative led by the nonprofit Sarapis, is hosting a pair of projects that harness the power of the Internet to provide oversight of government planning and spending. Together, the Capital Project Directory and City Agency Database provide transparency on the activities of the government in ways the city is either unwilling or incapable of doing.

The Capital Project Directory in particular taps into the issue of runaway infrastructure construction costs—an especially prevalent challenge for New York but also around the rest of the country. WeGovNYC is part of a growing effort to identify and diagnose the causes of the highest construction costs for infrastructure projects in the world (the Eno Center for Transportation and NYU’s Marron Institute are among the first to research the issue).  

https://www.planetizen.com/features/115081-top-websites-urban-planning-2021

Read the full article here.

WeGovNYC’s Databook Featured in Local News Story

Gotham Gazette, a news site focused on New York politics, published an analysis of New York City’s capital projects that centers WeGovNYC’s Databook Capital Project Directory.

The story New Analysis Details Just How Late and Over-Budget City Infrastructure Projects Run by Samar Khurshid published on September 14, 2021 references the project throughout the article along with many quotes from Sarapis founder and WeGovNYC project leader Devin Balkind.

Front page news at gothamgazette.com

WeGov, a civic technology initiative, examined available capital project data dating back to 2019 but including projects as far back as 2001, to present an easier picture of the city’s infrastructure landscape, and the results are damning. It examined 5,263 projects with an original estimated total cost of nearly $77 billion, but that has grown to $148.5 billion. Of the total projects, 2,624 are running past their projected timelines and 2,990 are over budget; 997 are starting late and 2,946 are ending late.

It explains the project clearly.

The portal maps out the location of specific capital projects, outlines each project’s budget, the source of their funding, and how spending on projects has changed with different iterations of the budget over the years. It is part of a larger data-driven initiative that also analyzes agency-specific data including everything from headcount to expense budgets to City Council discretionary funding.

And quotes Devin directly about the project’s goals.

“The point of this is to help mobilize the public to take a bigger interest in capital projects, to document capital projects, put pressure on the government to release better data about capital projects, to make it evident to the people who actually produce these projects and to OMB, who kind of oversees this, that the public’s watching,” he added.

The story’s author got quotes from the the powerful Mayor’s Office for Management and Budget, a spokesperson said the agency and city are constantly improving the process and releasing more data.

It ends with a quote from Devin.

Balkind hopes that his data project will help the public understand where their taxes are directed and to push the administration to improve its delivery of projects and services. “We’re off the charts in terms of inefficiency and we pay for that all the time,” Balkind said, “and capital projects are a very obvious way we pay for that.”

Databook Update 3 – September 2021

Add Districts Section where users can select district type to see district boundaries, and then click a district to see it’s Databook data.

  • Added District Types Community Districts (CBs), Council Districts (CDs) and Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs)
  • Associate mapped Capital Projects with their corresponding districts so they can be browsed by district.
  • Add rollups to see Capital Project stats on a District by District Basis”

Databook Update 1 – July 2021

We added Capital Projects section to the Databook. This involved adding new views:

  • Browse all Capital Projects, sort them by budget size and borough, filter by Borough and Category, search with text.
  • Browse all Capital Projects of a specific agency, sort, filter and search them.
  • View an individual Capital Project Profile, its profile info, changes over time and timeline.

March 30th: Improving NYC with Airtable

Airtable is a “spreadbase” that combines the ease-of-use of a spreadsheet with the power of a custom, relational database.

We’ve seen how people can use Airtable to modernize information management processes within government agencies and other large organizations and want more people working in and around NYC government to use it!

As such, we’re offering a free, one hour, Airtable workshop for people working to improve NYC.

The training is scheduled for Tuesday March 30th at 4PM and will be conducted via Google Meet.

The basic agenda of the workshops is:

  • An introduction to the “spreadbase” concept
  • Basic training on Airtable using a real-world use case
  • How to use Airtable to prototype custom software
  • Airtable Community Q&A

This training is open to anyone, but our preference is for people who live in NYC and either:

  • work in NYC or NYS government
  • work at nonprofits in NYC
  • have a #civictech or community project that improves NYC

This workshop will be modelled after previous workshops we’ve done for OReilly Media and NYC Open Data Week.

This workshop is a nonprofit program of WeGovNYC and is not associated with the company that makes Airtable.

Open Data Week Session: What Would You Build with Normalized NYC Open Data? What If WeGov.NYC?

NYC produces lots of great open data, but its often hard to use because UIDs in one dataset don’t match with UIDs in another.

So we’ve built an open source toolset to “normalize” data and republish it via API. Then we built some apps on top of it. And you can too!

Our first app is “DataBook”, an ever-evolving city agency directory tying over a dozen (and counting) datasets together to give people easy access to information about their government: agency budgets, staff contact info, capital projects, facilities and more!

Our goal is to make DataBook the most comprehensive website about city government operations – built entirely with open data and APIs.

Our other goal is to be part of something more: an alliance of people and projects helping each other produce the solutions our city needs to create the city we all deserve.

The session agenda:

  • A brief discussion about how great open data is and how much greater it would be if it there were more UIDs shared between datasets.
  • What datasets do you want to see normalized?
  • An explanation for how WeGov.NYC normalizes data and republishes it via API.
  • A brief tour of Databook.
  • An invitation for you to use our normalized city data and our API.
  • What projects are you working on? How can we help you?

See the official session description here.

Open Data Week Session: You Can Build It! — Going from Spreadsheets to Airtable to Apps

During this workshop, WeGovNYC founder Devin Balkind shows participants how to build useful apps with Airtable, and how to use other free, widely used technology (Google Slides and Figma) to create shovel-ready, software specifications that users, developers and decisionmakers can actually understand and collaboratively improve.

The tools described in the workshop can make the whole software development process less intimidating and more accessible, enabling you to get better feedback from your stakeholders and build apps faster, better and cheaper.

For people working in change resistant organizations. these tools and techniques can enable you to get “complex” database design and implementation work done from the bottom up, and in a way that minimized institutional resistance to change and maybe even avoids unnecessary approval processes.

This training is best for people who:

  • are managing lots of spreadsheets and wish they “all connected”
  • are now or want to build apps that organize complex information

Video recording of the session will be posted shortly.