How Data Helps Coordinate Street Closures for Community Events
In January, organizers at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) submitted an application for their May 2018 block party. Such an event requires shutting down an entire street—and coordination between multiple City agencies.
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Permitted Event Information
An approved event application for an upcoming event
Any event requires careful planning; for the KHCC, throwing the annual block party means shutting down Kingsbridge Terrace between Summit Place and Perot Street, on the east side of the community center’s Bronx location.
A core responsibility of City government is regulating public space. That’s why the Street Activity Permitting Office (SAPO) exists: SAPO ensures that those who want to use property belonging to the City—like sidewalks, streets, or pedestrian plazas—do so in a fair, safe way that minimizes disruption to the community. Before the KHCC could host its block party, it needed to file an application for a permit through SAPO’s online portal, called EAPPLY.
When KHCC hit “submit” on the EAPPLY website, the application created a data “record,” with a unique identifier in the Citywide Event Management System—Event ID # 392953. This record included the event name, the start and end date and time, the location, and the degree to which the street or plaza would be closed (curbside-only, partial, or full).
A SAPO borough manager reviewed the application and determined it needed supporting permits—one from the Police Department for amplified sound, and one from the Department of Consumer Affairs for a portable amusement device (such as a moonbounce). NYC Parks and the Department of Transportation were also coordinated, and confirmed that there were no construction conflicts with the event. Once this criteria was met, SAPO issued the community center an approved permit through the online system, and on May 5, the block party went off without a hitch.
Each year, more than 45,000 New York City events like the KHCC Block Party are issued permits from the event management offices of various City agencies. All of these records are collected in the Citywide Event Management System, which the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management uses to coordinate event permitting and ensure events approved by separate agencies don’t conflict. It also shares this data with other agencies like the Fire Department, the Department of Sanitation, the MTA, community boards, and business improvement districts. This encourages neighborhood voices to weigh in on the events in their communities, and assures events in the city are both safe and enjoyable for all.
A dataset of upcoming eventshas been available since 2013. Thanks to Local Law 106 of 2015, the Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management began publishing a historical dataset of event records in 2017. This archive provides event data as far back as 2008. Sociologists Maria Abascal of Columbia University and Delia Baldassarri of New York University are using this archived data in their research to observe which communities are more likely to engage in collective action by organizing and hosting events. In addition to demonstrating the range and diversity of ways our city streets may be utilized, the researchers have found that City-permitted events—like block parties, play-streets, and clean-ups—are great proxies for participation in civic life through collective action.