Thursday, January 31, 2008

N.Y. Residents Now Able To Monitor Blocks Online

The New York Sun
BY BRADLEY HOPE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
January 31, 2008

A new Web site allows New Yorkers to monitor everything happening on their block, from restaurant inspections and building violations to missed connections posted on Craigslist and news mentions.

The site,, is the creation of Adrian Holovaty, who won a $1.1 million, two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. His proposal was to create a simple way to answer the question "What's happening around me?" according to the foundation's Web site., which launched last week, takes data from city government Web sites, newspapers, and community sites and then displays it by block, ZIP code, neighborhood, or borough. The site tracks New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, but Mr. Holovaty plans to expand it to other cities.

"The main concept is that this is a newspaper for your block," Mr. Holovaty, 27, said in an interview. "It's difficult to keep track of your block in a dense urban neighborhood. I don't have time to read all the neighborhood weeklies, city dailies, and local blogs, or watch all the TV stations. … And the government sites often have very difficult Web interfaces."

The idea came to Mr. Holovaty from another Web site he started, The site was among the first to overlay data from the local government with a Google map of the city. Chicago residents can use the site to see where precisely a crime took place and at what time on a map.

Mr. Holovaty said he wants to have the same feature, but the New York City Web site,, for instance, doesn't disclose much of the data about individual crimes.

"We, along with a few other people, are trying to get them to open up their site with more public information," he said. "That's sort of our company goal in general: Make the government more open."

A native of Chicago, Mr. Holovaty attended the Missouri School of Journalism and then worked at the Lawrence Journal World in Kansas. He won the Knight News Challenge grant while designing journalistic applications for the Web site of the Washington Post. Though launched last week, Mr. Holovaty said it contains only about 10% of the information he plans it to have.

"Especially for New York, we haven't even scratched the surface," he said. "We want to add a lot of real estate information."

After the grant runs out at the end of two years, the code for will become public, according to the foundation's stipulations. But Mr. Holovaty and his three-person team are planning to make the site commercially viable, he said.

"We aren't sure how we are going to make money yet," he said. "But it's very exciting."

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