There (Could Be) An App For That
by Anthony Stasi
Aug 27, 2014 | 938 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recent battle between a building owner and residents in Woodhaven over a partially collapsed building brings to mind a possible way to avoid situations like this going forward.

The owner of the building won a court decision which states that he does not have to raze the decaying building, which has people in the neighborhood near Franklin K. Lane High School confused. This should have been addressed sooner, but there may be ways to connect local residents to government agencies by utilizing technology.

New York City has active community boards and elected officials, but even with that being the case, it takes a while to get a meeting, vote on issues, or report them to the right place. Maybe there is a way to at least start that process quicker.

Some states have used smartphone apps as a way to improve government response time. States in the Midwest, for example, have apps to pick up road kill or deal with traffic problems.

New York is great at developing apps that allow people to find the right train or restaurant, but maybe we need more technological attention on things that affect residents and don't simply focus on tourists.

We are now at a point where more than 50 percent of online activity happens from a device other than a computer. This means that many people, and eventually most people, will have online capabilities when they are away from home or work.

If people see a building in decay or being used by squatters, there needs to be an app that reports it immediately. The follow-up would be to call and hold meetings, but at least the complaint would be filed instantaneously.

For all the complaining we may do about the size of government, most government agencies in New York City are not that big. Save for the NYPD, FDNY, and the Department of Sanitation, many government agencies are not that heavily staffed.

If people can reach the Department of Buildings right away electronically, and then do the necessary community activism afterward, we may be doing a service to our regulatory government agencies.

This is not a suggestion to hold government bureaucrats’ feet to the fire; it is a way to help the government get to problems quicker and more efficiently. For example, if there is a neighborhood where garbage may not be picked up as often as needed, this could be a way to address the problem.

We have enough technology for any person in the universe to find the Museum of Natural History. Now we need to focus that technology on quality-of-life issues.

Calling the E Train Home

People who are homeless, and refuse to go to the city’s PATH intake center in the Bronx to be assigned shelter, often times stay underground – especially in cold weather.

The E train, because it is a nicely lit and well-kept line, is an option for some of our homeless. It is also the one train that stays underground. New York City does a lot of outreach to get people off of the streets, but it might be a good idea to focus on this particular subway line.

Among the poorest, the E train is a place to wait out the cold, and with another cold winter on the way, it may become more of an option.

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