Brownsville Gets Talking Trash Cans, Interactive Park Benches


Brownsville residents get ready for talking trash cans and park benches that offer plug-ins to recharge your cell phone.

It’s all part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to make Brownsville the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. The tech equity initiative brings together community members, government, educators, and tech companies to help address neighborhood concerns with cutting-edge technologies.

Over the next four months, community advisors will work with the City to define neighborhood needs and explore how smart city technologies can help improve quality of life and support local economic development. The first community forum, with activities for all ages, is scheduled for May 2017.

Then beginning this summer, the first set of new technologies – including trash cans that alert sanitation workers when they are full, solar-powered benches that offer free cell phone charging, and interactive digital kiosks – will be rolled out in Brownsville. Community residents will be invited to test out these devices and share feedback that City agencies will use to evaluate the impact and value of these technologies.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

“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 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.”

The model for Neighborhood Innovation Labs was first announced at the White House in conjunction with President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015, and fine-tuned as part of the Envision America program in 2016.

Neighborhood Innovation Labs are a public-private partnership led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. Brownsville Community Justice Center will serve as the lead community partner for the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and Osborn Plaza will serve as the anchor site for public programs and initial technology demonstrations.

“The Mayor’s willingness to be accountable for responsive local investment is vital to successful community development,” said Erica Mateo, Deputy Director of Brownsville Community Justice Center. “As our City becomes smarter, tech equity across NYC becomes even more important to growing local economies. Equity is present when residents and stakeholders are defining problems, using data, creating feedback loops and government is shepherding in relevant resources – this is what the Neighborhood Innovation Labs attempts to do.”

Other Community advisors include:

  • Jimmi Brevil, Community Assistant for Brooklyn Community Board #16
  • Pernell Brice, III, Executive Director of the Dream Big Foundation
  • Lloyd Cambridge, Founder of Progress Playbook
  • Anthony Collins, Owner of Bloc Bully IT Solutions
  • Nakisha Evans, Director of the Office of Workforce Partnerships at C.U.N.Y.
  • Duane Kinnon, President and CEO of The Kinnon Group
  • Erica Mateo, Deputy Director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center
  • Daniel Murphy, Executive Director of the Pitkin Avenue BID
  • Layman Lee, Placemaking Manager at Brownsville Partnership
  • Quardean Lewis-Allen, Founder and CEO of Made in Brownsville
  • Johnnymae Robinson, Project Coordinator for What About The Children
  • Mary Tobin, Executive Director of Brownsville Partnership

Additional partners include:

  • Office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
  • Office of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke
  • Office of NYS Senator Jesse Hamilton
  • Office of NYS Assembly Member Latrice Walker
  • Office of NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

“My administration has been a leading champion of smart city innovations, and it is exciting to see our efforts expand in a meaningful way to communities looking to tap into their full potential. Part of building communities up involves working together to utilize existing resources. With the smart city approach, Brownsville residents and local organizations will be empowered with the tools to pinpoint problems and create data-driven solutions,” said Adams.

Neighborhood Innovation Labs are supported by an initial $250,000-a-year funding allocation from the City. Based on the outcome of the first Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville, the City will explore expanding the initiative to all five boroughs. Members of the public interested in getting involved should visit:

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