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Creating a Better Community Through Text Messages

As cities make their data more transparent and accountable, this project in New York found one way to use technology to engage the residents in the planning process—by prompting locals to text in ideas.
To help guide a community plan, residents texted their suggestions for local development.
To help guide a community plan, residents texted their suggestions for local development. Courtesy of coUrbanize

“I’d like to buy culturally conscious books and cards that represent me,” writes one commenter. A few others keep their requests for Brownsville, Brooklyn, pretty simple—a Burger King or a Chase Bank would do.

These are comments left by residents of Brownsville in response to a prompt to tell city officials “what’s missing” in their neighborhood. The answers populated an online map, a tool used by New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in a new planning project. Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio and the HPD released the Brownsville Plan, an outcome of a year’s worth of planning by the community and municipality, which will create 2,500 new affordable homes and spruce up the neighborhood’s cultural and recreational facilities. According to the comments on the map, these are very welcome additions.