Posts from NYC

Election Day

It’s election day and I’m going to stop by the polls this morning and vote.

It would be easy for me to skip the polls as there is not much at stake in NYC this year.

Mayor de Blasio is going to get re-elected fairly easily as he has no strong challengers.

The same is true of the other citywide officials and most city council members, including mine.

But I am going to vote in spite of all of that.

I think one of our biggest problems in our country is voter apathy.

So I am going to demonstrate against that by showing up and voting in an election with little to nothing at stake.

NYCx

NYC announced a challenge program this week that is aimed at getting innovators, designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, etc focused on solving some of NYC’s most interesting problems. It is called NYCx and you can learn more about it here.

The first three challenges are up and are here.

They are:

The Governors Island Connectivity Challenge

Increasing Recycling In Brownsville Public Housing

Creating Safe Nightime Corridors In Brownsville

The City will continue to roll out these NYCx challenges in the coming months and years.

If you think you can solve one of the three existing challenges, you can apply on the links above.

Why Amazon Should Come To NYC

USA Today reported that NYC is working on a proposal to encourage Amazon to locate its second headquarters “HQ2” in NYC.

I can’t imagine a better place for HQ2 than NYC.

Here are ten reasons why Amazon should stop thinking about any other place and just pick NYC:

  1. NYC is headquarters to many global companies. It has the transportation systems, building stock, and talent base that companies need and desire for their headquarters.
  2. It has 8.5mm people, enough to satisfy Amazon’s insatiable appetite for talent.
  3. It is home to the entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, and big ideas that Amazon is looking to surround itself with.
  4. It is home to the second largest tech sector in the US.
  5. NYC is committed to teaching computer science to all of the 1.1mm students in its school system by 2025 and is already 1/3 of the way there.
  6. NYC/NYS has embarked on massive infrastructure investment to upgrade its transportation hubs like LGA and Penn Station.
  7. There are something like fifteen direct flights from NYC to Seattle every weekday.
  8. NYC has the largest Amazon customer base of any city in the US (I am guessing on this one. But it has to be true).
  9. NYC will welcome Amazon with open arms unlike some of the other cities that Amazon is considering.
  10. NYC has the most diverse workforce in the US.

So if any AVC readers know how to get this post to the team at Amazon that is making this decision, please send it to them. I am certain NYC is the place for them. They will love it here.

Cornell Tech

I took a ferry up the East River yesterday evening to attend a dinner celebrating the official opening of Cornell Tech which happens this morning.

Situated on Roosevelt Island, underneath the Queensboro Bridge, Cornell Tech is a graduate school of engineering and business that is focused on the technologies and industries of the 21st Century. While the campus is officially opening today, Cornell Tech has been operating as a graduate school for something like four or five years now, in the Google building in Chelsea.

It is the result of an RFP process that Mike Bloomberg’s administration put out seeking a new school of engineering in NYC.

Last night the former mayor spoke about all of that and reminded us, as he always does, why NYC is the greatest place in the world.

With the opening of Cornell Tech, the city continues to feel the impact of Mike’s twelve years of leadership.

He put NYC on solid footing and helped to point it in the right direction. We are all grateful for that.

Speaking of leadership, Cornell Tech is led by Dean Dan Huttenlocher. Dan is a fantastic technologist, educator, and community member.

If Cornell Tech is a gift that the Bloomberg administration gave NYC, Dan is a gift that Cornell gave NYC.

Dan’s leadership in the NYC tech community has already been felt and as he said last night, “the best is yet to come.”

The synergies between engineering schools and technology communities are well understood and well documented.

NYC has some great engineering schools, like NYU’s Tandon where I am on the Board, Columbia’s School Of Engineering, and at the various CUNY schools. The addition of a world class institution like Cornell Tech will only make things better. It ups the competition between these schools for students, faculty, and research grants. And that makes everyone better.

Today is a big day for the NYC tech community. We welcome the Cornell Tech campus to NYC and celebrate all the good things that will come of this. And I am certain that there will be many.

Transit

As Co-Chairman of Tech:NYC, I get asked frequently to name the issues that matter most to the tech companies of NYC.

On my list, often at the top, is transit. Getting to and from work matters a lot to the employees of the growing number of tech companies in NYC.

And this summer has been a bad one for transit. If you haven’t been stuck in a subway and found yourself late for work, you’ve been anxious about that happening to you.

I take the subway to work a fair amount. It is simply the fastest way to get around NYC. And I like being in contact with the every day people of the city. You really get a sense of NYC in the subway. You see it all. I love it.

So I am in favor of the City making the needed investment, in partnership with NY State, which controls the transit system in NYC, to modernize and upgrade the subways. It would be nice to see our Mayor and Governor figure out how to do something together instead of just fighting with each other. I’m sick of that to be honest and I suspect most NYC residents are.

I am also fine with chipping in a bit more out of my pocket to pay for this upgrade. The Mayor says it will cost our family another $2700 a year to pay for this upgrade. I’m in on that. I do think the wealthy residents of NYC can and should help the city maintain and improve our transit system.

Finally, I would like to see new transit infrastructure built.

I like the City’s effort to expand the ferry system. I am a huge user of the East River ferries and I would like to see them routed up the Hudson to serve the west side of Manhattan too.

My favorite new transit project is the proposed BQX where I am a Board member and advisor. The BQX would provide street level light rail along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront neighborhoods and make it easier for companies and people to locate there as opposed to central Brooklyn and Manhattan where the density of transit options are today.

I would like to see the tech sector in NYC come together and support these transit initiatives. Elected officials need our encouragement and pressure to do these big infrastructure projects. They are expensive and the payoff is long term, well beyond their term(s) in office. So getting them done requires a lot of activation energy and we can and should provide it.

Cranes

I was walking down a street in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC this morning and came across a street closing.

cranes

The entire block was closed to cars because that crane was busy lifting heavy material to the upper floors of a building that is being constructed right now.

This is a common occurrence in NYC these days. There is construction all over the place.

I was in a cab last week and the driver told me that he has never seen more street closings and cranes in NYC than right now. He was complaining about it.

But I have a different view. Cranes, street closings, road construction, manhole work, etc are an inconvenience for sure. But they are a sign of vitality, the look of a city evolving and growing in front of our very eyes. Lose the cranes and the construction crews and you will see a city slowly dying.

I understand the anti-development, anti-gentrification folks. I appreciate that they are trying to maintain some semblance of history and personal scale. And I appreciate that they are trying to protect people from being forced out of their homes, schools, and neighborhoods by the capitalist desire for more, more, more.

But there must be a balance. We cannot decide to stop evolving and growing. We need to find ways to do it gracefully and respectfully. The anti-development forces are doing us all a favor by making sure that happens. But when they dominate the discussion, things grind to a halt and nothing happens. That is not where we want to be.

So when I see a street closed by a crane, I celebrate it. It’s progress. No pain, no gain.

NYC’s FinTech Innovation Lab

Applications are open for New York’s seventh annual FinTech Innovation Lab, a 12-week program that I have blogged about a bunch here on AVC. This proram is for early and growth stage companies that have developed cutting edge technology products targeted at financial services customers. The program has a particular interest in: Augmented/ Virtual Reality; Data Analytics using Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning; Digital Customer Engagement Tools; Enterprise Dev Ops; RegTech; Security, and other Disruptive Financial Services Models.  For a complete list of focus areas, click here.

The FinTech Innovation Lab is run by the Partnership Fund for New York City and Accenture. Accepted companies will get the chance to refine and beta test their financial technology products in New York City in partnership with the world’s leading financial services firms and receive mentorship from the Lab’s Entrepreneurs Network.

Through a competitive process, the chief technology officers of the participating firms will determine which proposals are accepted for further development and deployment. The participating firms are:  AIG, Alliance Bernstein, Ally Financial, Amalgamated Bank, American Express, AQR, Bank of America, Barclays Capital, BBVA, BlackRock,  Capital One, CIT Group, Citi, Credit Suisse, DE Shaw, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Guardian Life Insurance, JPMorgan Chase & Co., KeyBank, MasterCard, Morgan Stanley, New York Life Insurance, Pitney Bowes, Rabobank, Scotiabank, Synchrony, UBS and Wells Fargo.  Several venture firms also support the Lab, including Bain Capital Ventures, Canaan Partners, Contour Venture Partners, Nyca Partners, Rho Ventures, RRE Ventures, and Warburg Pincus.

For more information sign up for their information session on Monday, November 7, 2016 from 5:30 – 6:30 PMRegister

Application deadline is December 1, 2016APPLY

Some Thoughts On Airbnb’s Struggles In New York State

As many readers likely know, this week New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill called S6340A/A8704C, which will levy heavy fines on individuals who advertise short-term rentals of residential multiple dwelling units in New York. This ends an effort that lasted several months to convince the Governor to veto this bill which was passed by both legislative bodies in Albany earlier this year.

Airbnb promptly filed a federal lawsuit as the New York Times reported. The Times piece states that:

In its lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, the company contends that the law violates the company’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process, as well as the protection it is afforded under the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that says websites cannot be held accountable for content published by their users.

It is possible that this matter will be settled by the courts.

But it is my hope that, instead, calmer heads will prevail and New York State will pass sensible legislation that allows short term rentals when the tenant or owner is not present.

Airbnb has proposed a five point plan that attempts to address many of the issues that New Yorkers have with short term rentals.

This proposal is similar to legislation that has been adopted in large urban cities like Chicago.

There are many reasons why the current situation is not ideal for anyone. Most people living in apartment buildings don’t like the idea of an Airbnb in their building. It is also problematic when landlords to take apartments off the rental market and create illegal hotels. And landlords need a way to enforce the rules outlined in their leases.

On the other hand, many New Yorkers use income from short term rentals to allow them to afford an apartment in NYC when they have jobs that require them to travel extensively. There are also many New Yorkers who rent their homes during busy periods to make some extra income.

An outright ban on short term rentals is a bad thing for many New Yorkers.

I am certain there is middle ground to find a compromise that addresses the legitimate issues while allowing short term rentals to continue. And I am hopeful that will eventually happen.

Both sides are to blame for where we are right now. Airbnb allowed the NY short term rental market to emerge over the past seven years without sufficient concern over the negative impacts of unregulated short term rentals. It took way too long to engage in a real and substantive discussion with legislators and regulators and when it did, there was a lot of bad blood between both sides.

On the other hand, the hotel unions and the real estate industry have used their significant clout in Albany to push for a law that is overly restrictive and hurts many New Yorkers. And they got the legislature and the Governor to support it. It shines a bright light on the kind of back room dealing that voters are sick and tired of, in Albany and all around the US.

I would urge the Governor to provide some leadership here now that he has satisfied the legislature by signing their deeply flawed bill. There is a proposal on the table from Airbnb to regulate short term rentals sensibly. The Governor and the legislature should engage with that proposal. And the real estate industry should engage as well. Short term rentals can be a good thing for them too.

I am confident that we have not seen the end of Airbnb and short term rentals in NY State. If calmer heads prevail we can get short term rentals that make sense for NY State and NY City. And that is what we should do.

Feeding The Trolls

Danah Boyd has a nice post up about what it was like to live on the block that the second bomb was placed this past weekend in NYC. But the post is really about something way more important. It is about the fact that we are increasingly letting the trolls drive us nuts. The trolls are the people who do these acts of terrorism intended to turn us into a scared and terrified society. And she is right, they are succeeding in that effort, aided by the media making a bigger deal out of these things than they should.

I heard about the bombing on saturday night at a party in Brooklyn. It was upsetting but it did not impact us much that evening. We continued to celebrate our friends birthday and anniversary. We took an Uber back to Manhattan. We went out for a late dinner and then went to bed. The next day was more of the same. We did not let this nutjob impact how we live and what we do. My friend Jerry asked me on Monday how I was doing. I said fine. He brought up the bombing. And I had already forgotten it. I said “nobody died Jerry, a few people got hurt. It sucks.”

I am more upset by the massive increase in homelessness on the streets of NYC, I am more upset by the fact that the Hudson river comes close to coming over its banks every time there is a big storm, I am more upset by the fact that young black men get killed by the police for no good reason.

I am with Danah. Fuck the trolls. The police and the other security apparatus can and will deal with them. I am going to go about living my life and not thinking about them.

Video Of The Week: Citibike Rage

AVC regular Rob Underwood sent me this video a couple days ago:

This happened at a Community Board 6 (Cobble Hill Brooklyn) meeting this week. Here’s a news report that explains the context of what happened here.

I am posting this for several reasons.

I am a huge Citibike fan and user. I’ve already used it three times today and its only 8:30am

citibike

Citibike has made living in the city so much better for me in so many ways. So I am thrilled that Citibike is expanding in NYC and becoming available to new neighborhoods and providing Citibike access to new neighborhoods.

But I realize that not everyone is a fan of bikes, bike lanes, and bike stations. This man certainly is not.

The anger and resentment this man is feeling is an example of how many are feeling in the US (and the world) right now. Things are changing around him and not for the better, at least for him. It’s worth mentioning that he was initially set off because there were no american flags on display at the community board meeting. If you want to understand the appeal of Donald Trump, this man might help you do that.

Finally, a suggestion. Why doesn’t Citibike offer free monthly passes for all residents of homes and buildings that are next to a Citibike station? And why doesn’t Citibike allow these homes and buildings request a Citibike station next to their building so that they can obtain this benefit?

Rob has a Citibike station in front of his house and he is mostly happy about it. I would love a Citibike station in front of my house. I realize not everyone feels this way. But if you provide some incentives for having one, the folks that are open to it would compete for it and the folks that are not open would likely not have to have one. It would be worth trying this in a new neighborhood and seeing if it works.

Local government and politics is not easy. But finding ways to move forward in ways that people can accept and get behind is the work that must be done. Staying put is certainly not the answer, as much as some would like to do that.