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NYC Selects 20 Civic Apps for BigApp Challenge

City officials and tech leaders select finalists for more than $100,000 in prize winnings.

by / August 15, 2014
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the winners of the NYC BigApps competition, a challenge to foster tech innovation for the city. Flickr/Kevin Case

New York’s bag of tech tools is jostling with 20 new apps.

The additions come by way of the NYC BigApps 2014, a civic tech competition that bills itself as the nation’s largest civic innovation challenge with $20,000 awarded to the top four winners. This month, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced the 20 finalists battling in four categories: live, learn, work and play. The apps are meant to remedy some of the Big Apple’s high priority needs. Specifically, these include economic mobility, education, health and support of the city’s urban environment.

A selection committee comprised of tech, design and civic sector leaders will judge the finalists and present them sometime in mid-September.

“The power of the city's tech ecosystem isn't just in the hundreds of thousands of homegrown jobs it provides for New Yorkers, but in its potential to create real tech-driven solutions that enhance quality of life in the city,” said Mayor de Blasio in a release.

Looking at contenders, first impressions reveal a wide variety of apps. There are social media apps for teachers and apartment-dwellers, an app to pay parking fines, apps to find information on parks, and an app to make the food stamp process user-friendly and more  — see a complete list below.

One of the apps that answers one of the city’s more visible problems is “Reported.” The app displays a real-world ingenuity in its attempt to solve taxi complaints. According to creators Jeff Novich and Josh Weitzman, there are 175 million New York cab trips each year, but in 2013, only about 13,000 consumer complaints. The ratio of complaints, they say, indicates a massive gap in communication and accountability for taxi drivers.

The remedy is an app that streamlines 311 taxi complaints to the city and reduces submission time from minutes to seconds.

“It takes about five to 10 minutes to submit a 311 complaint, but to get a lot of people to participate it really needs to take seconds,” Novich says in an explainer video for the app.

Reported reduces complaint submissions to 30 seconds and lets users submit photos, videos and voice recordings. If validated by the city, the complaints will translate into potential fines against drivers.

Another notable app is RentHackr, a crowdsourced app looking to ease access to housing availability through lease publication. The web and mobile app delivers a map of rentals with pricing info and lease expiration dates for prospective tenants. In addition to the mapping, renters can message each other directly, search for rooms (subletting) and access apartment reviews.

“We’re thrilled and honored to be a finalist and eager to move on to the final stage!” wrote RentHackr Founder Zeb Dropkin in a blog post about the award.

Beyond awards for grand prize winners, the contest will offer a $25,000 purse, divided into five categories for best mobile app, web app, connected device, data tool and game. Below are descriptions for each of the apps. For more information, jump to the project pages of the apps by clicking here.


CourseKicker - Online collaboration network where K-12 teachers share best practices and ideas
Culture Island - Maps, tours and other information to easily explore Governors Island
Dream See Do - Online community for students to learn about career possibilities based on their interests and skills
Emrals - Cryptocurrency-based game that rewards citizens for cleaning the City
Explore NYC Parks - Allows users to find information on parks closest to them and the amenities and events they offer
FineNYC - Allows user to easily manage and pay their parking tickets
Heat Seek NYC - Detects heating violations in real time
Mind My Business - Tells small business owners what is happening outside and around their business that makes a difference to their bottom line
MyCoop - A social platform for residential buildings
Nfoshare - A real-time sentiment analytics platform that predicts student dropouts and lowers student loneliness
NYC Hired - Allows users to see which job fields are the most promising in New York City based on salaries and growth potential
Ohmconnect - Rewards users for reducing their electricity use
PIPs – Rewarding Better - Records and rewards daily life choices that benefit planetary, community and personal health
Propel - Simplifies the enrollment process for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
RedRover - Simplifies the search for things to do in New York City
RentHackr - Shows apartments that will become available months ahead of the market
Reported - Allows users to submit a taxi complaint quickly and efficiently
Responcers - Securely connects users with emergency personnel and service providers
SketchFactor - A crowd-sourced navigation app that gives users directions based on their preferences
Social Cyclist - Allows users to record and share bike routes, find the nearest bike share station, and request new bike parking for their community


— Jason Shueh

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