The Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville will be home to New York City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, city officials announced last week. The initiative, which begins planning in earnest this week, seeks to bring together government, community members, educators, and tech companies to use leading-edge technologies to address local concerns. Over the next four months, community leaders and city advisors will be working together to identify the neighborhood’s most salient needs in order to explore the smart city technologies that can help promote quality of life and increase local economic opportunities.

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Some of the new technologies Brownsville will be rolling out this summer include trash cans that ping sanitation workers when they’re full, solar-powered benches that provide free cell-phone charging, and interactive digital kiosks.

Community residents, officials say, will be invited to test these devices and share feedback that city agencies can use to evaluate and improve them.

“New York is a city of neighborhoods and there is no better way to prepare communities for the future than by empowering residents to define their needs and help our shape technology investments,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Neighborhood Innovation Labs provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with community, and also open new doors for local residents to learn about careers in technology, a fast-growing sector of our economy.”

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First announced as part of President Barack Obama’s “Smart Cities” initiative in September 2015, then honed as part of the Envision America program in 2016, Neighborhood Innovation Labs is a joint endeavor led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and New York City’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.

“Rapid technological advances hold the potential to transform our cities, driving quality of life improvements for millions of New Yorkers,” said Miguel Gamiño, chief technology officer for the City of New York. “Our challenge—and responsibility—is to ensure these technologies reach and benefit all New Yorkers, not merely a select few. Neighborhood Innovation Labs represent an important step toward fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s vision for a stronger, more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.”

+ Neighborhood Innovation Labs

Photo by Lisle Bruney