May 2016

Trees Count! Count Yourself In


What kind of data lives in cities? Beyond government, census, and financials, you’d be surprised to find that data lives in every corner. In fact, data can truly live: in our “concrete jungle,” we have a number of plantlife that tells its own story. New York’s trees are important — not just for our livelihood, but for our history. That’s why New York’s tree data is so important. In the past 20 years — in 1995, 2005, and 2015 — NYC has conducted three composite inventories of our city’s trees, improving NYC Park’s ability to manage our urban forest. With 20 years of data, we have plenty to explore and to experiment with. And we want you to join us.

On Saturday, June 4th, NYC Parks and BetaNYC will unveil NYC’s latest urban forest dataset, the most spatially accurate map of New York City’s street trees ever created. Join NYC Parks, TreesCount! partners, and tree care volunteers to learn about the urban forest and its impact on our daily lives.

We’re looking for the city’s civic technologist, data specialists, design experts, and other passionate New Yorkers to help translate our tree data into actionable insights.

Join us now: RSVP here

Staff Spotlight: Ally Wharton

AwhartonName: Ally Wharton

Hometown: Hermon, Maine

Job: Sr. Operations Specialist

Years at Microsoft: 2

Favorite Local Restaurant: How does one answer this if they live in NYC!? If I must, a favorite in my neighborhood is AG Kitchen

Last thing you searched on Bing: JetBlue flash sale

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: We’re in the midst of our recruiting season, I love learning about the diverse candidates and chatting with them about their unique experiences.

What inspires you about technology? I find it exciting and inspiring that one day technology will be within the reach of every human being, in every country. My hope is that this will provide equal opportunities for citizens around the globe.

What is one problem you’d like to see technology solve?  Grocery shopping! I would love for technology to be able to complete all aspects of grocery shopping for me – order based on my preferences, select items to make meals throughout the week and even pick out a new beer or wine I might like. Of course, this would also include delivery.

Microsoft and Boot Campaign Host Pushup Event for Long-Term, High-paying jobs for our Veterans

Today, as part of National Military Appreciation Month, Microsoft hosted Pushups For Charity at the Microsoft Flagship Store in New York City.

The challenge featured some hard core fitness gurus, including: Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones, Boot Campaign COO; J.W. Cortes, Marine veteran and actor on FOX TV’s “Gotham”; Steve Weatherford, Super Bowl Champion, 10-year NFL player; Chris Ryan, top fitness model and trainer on NBC’s “STRONG,” and our own Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) graduate Jose Cruz. They will competed face-to-face to determine who can do the most pushups in 90 seconds.

Thank you to Wes Anderson, VP of U.S. Services, for hosting the LIVE event. The final 90-second challenge can be found on the Microsoft Military Affairs Facebook page.

Celebrating Tech Jobs Academy

Tech Jobs Academy

This week, 23 incredible New Yorkers and their families gathered at Civic Hall to celebrate an accomplishment that would have been impossible just months ago. But, like most overnight successes, this one was actually years in the making.  

Here is how it came about.

In 2014, I joined Microsoft to launch our Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, working with the community to identify and address opportunities to use technology for public good.  Later that year, our team began brainstorming with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Tech Talent Pipeline on how the company might best work to spread tech skills and opportunity more broadly.  Ideas started to take shape, particularly the importance of being responsive to the hiring demands of companies in the tech ecosystem and working backwards to bring precisely those skills to people in need.

In 2015, President Obama announced the TechHire Initiative to create pathways to quality, well-paying tech jobs nationwide.  In the associated White House announcement, the Tech Jobs Academy concept was identified as a model.  Later that year, 282 New Yorkers applied to participate in the first-ever cohort of Tech Jobs Academy.  

Finally, in 2016, Microsoft, the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline, and the New York City College of Technology (commonly known as City Tech) delivered the intensive 16 week pilot program, empowering people with in-demand, life-changing tech skills.  Over the past handful of months, participants – none of whom had 4-year college degrees, but all of whom had ability – studied cloud and server administration and supplemented those technical skills with career development and interpersonal training.  The technical learning model for Tech Jobs Academy was adapted from one developed by Microsoft to help transitioning service members and veterans compete for jobs in the technology sector. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy operates on three military bases and is projected to expand to nine regions servicing 14 bases across the U.S. in the coming year.  In addition, Microsoft has worked with the State of Washington and the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a workforce development apprenticeship model that can be replicated other states.  The latter program, the Registered Apprenticeship Program, aims to build a larger homegrown talent pool by training those currently underrepresented in the tech sector.  It seemed clear to us that Tech Jobs Academy fit in perfectly with Microsoft’s expressed interest in developing innovative upskilling models to spread tech skills more broadly.

After nearly two years of work behind the scenes, dozens of people directly involved, and having identified, trained, and supported the nearly two dozen graduates, last night was a celebration of success.  We were especially honored to have three keynote speakers, each representing one of the partners behind Tech Jobs Academy.  

From Microsoft, Corporate Vice President Dan’l Lewin described the history of the microprocessor and the dawn of the computing age, putting the current day’s changes in the context of prior revolutions in how work gets done.

From the City of New York, Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco provided an overview of praiseworthy work happening in New York City to empower New Yorkers with tech skills.  She wrapped her remarks by reminding the graduates that each now had a “superpower” as well as a duty to use it.

From City Tech, President Russell Hotzler described the important work that City Tech does in educating thousands of New Yorkers every year.  He also noted the sense of community and the role that families played in making such accomplishments possible.

Following the keynotes and providing perhaps the most emotional moments of the evening were three speakers from the cohort itself – John Spruill, Carl Boisson, and Makini Osson – who delivered remarks that were thoughtful, heartfelt, and inspiring.  To cap off the celebration the graduates filed onstage to receive, one-by-one, their certificates of completion.

One of the most striking aspects of the program was that those involved – from the graduates to the organizations to the staff – felt such strong bonds with one another and collaborated so effectively.  In just a few months, these strangers came together to individually and collectively accomplish what most would have thought improbable if not impossible: becoming Microsoft-certified IT professionals with clear job prospects and the potential to provide themselves and their families with substantially better lives.

An undertaking like Tech Jobs Academy is no easy feat to carry off.  It took great teamwork from people within Microsoft as well as across the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline and City Tech.  It took dedicated, passionate people eager to gain new skills…with families and friends supporting them along the way.

And like nearly every overnight success, it was years in the making.

Microsoft celebrates National Small Business Week with programs and deals for local businesses

Small business is the heart of the U.S. economy: The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. Microsoft is celebrating National Small Business Week May 1-7 with events, panel discussions, videos, and in-store offers at Microsoft Stores designed to help small businesses grow and succeed. Get daily updates at the Microsoft Sway page for National Small Business Week.

Boosting IT security for small businesses

On Monday morning, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion focused on the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses, which are becoming a key target for cybercriminals seeking to access financial and personal data. Attackers assume that small businesses have limited resources for IT security; experts from Microsoft, ADP and ESET joined SBA Deputy Administrator Doug Kramer to offer solutions and resources that will help small businesses fight back. You can watch a replay of the discussion and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DreamSmallBiz.

Office Small Business Academy Live Expert Q&A

On Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. EDT, the Office Small Business Academy webcast series is hosting a live event, “Small Businesses, Big Ideas,” from the flagship Microsoft Store in New York. Featured speakers Carol Roth, Ramon Ray and Rieva Lesonsky will field entrepreneurs’ questions about building and growing a small business, from managing employees to connecting with customers. As a bonus, attendees will be eligible to get two months free with an annual Office 365 Business Premium plan.

Special offers for small businesses at the Microsoft Store

Microsoft Stores are designed to support the needs of small businesses with products and solutions, events, support and training. For National Small Business Week, we’re presenting programs to help entrepreneurs achieve more and offering discounts to help you get the most out of your investments. Check out the store nearest you for special workshops and offers.

Civic Tech Events Around NYC This Month


It’s currently May, apparently. The outdoors is in play as event venue, and you’ll be far less likely to get rained or snowed upon en route to an indoor event. Come join us at Civic Hall, LMHQ, and other great gathering places.

May 3

May 2016 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty:

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

May 4

DataCorps Projects Show and Tell:

It’s springtime and that means flowers in full bloom, tiny dogs in tiny galoshes and never quite knowing how many layers to wear. But flowers aren’t the only thing blooming – we have over a dozen long-term DataCorps projects recently kicked off or in progress.

Come meet some of the volunteer teams and learn about their work with social good organizations worldwide! Mix and mingle with fellow data do-gooders and throw some high fives at the orange-hoodied DataKinders there as well.

Microsoft Azure in collaboration with Cloud Foundry:

Microsoft Azure is seeing strong growth in the public cloud market along with exciting plans for an on-premise Azure Stack offering later this year. Pivotal is proud to host Gil Isaacs and Stuart Charlton to discuss Pivotal Cloud Foundry on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft’s work in the Cloud Foundry community. Gil is a Microsoft Developer Evangelist and a specialist in Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions. Stuart is an Advisory Platform Architect working closely with Pivotal’s customers across North America.

May 9

Mayor Bill de Blasio in Conversation with Arianna Huffington @ Civic Hall

Please join Mayor de Blasio, in conversation with Arianna Huffington, for a special announcement about technology, equality, and the future of civic engagement, hosted by Civic Hall.

May 10

Media 101: Op Eds with Naomi Wolf:

Join Dr. Naomi Wolf for a second Civic Hall workshop on the basics of getting your message out to a broad audience and into the mass market news stream. This workshop on Media 101 explains how to write, submit and edit an op ed that major news site editors will run, and how to use those skills to advance your viewpoint and mission, or to advocate for your project. Dr.Wolf is a globally published journalist and internationally best-selling feminist nonfiction writer and founder of DailyClout.

May 12

BigApps Winners Expo:

BigApps: Six winning teams. Four months later. Support what’s next in civic tech.

Join NYCEDC and Civic Hall on Thursday, May 12, as the six winners of BigApps 2015 showcase their civic tech innovations and the major milestones they’ve achieved during BigApps’ first-ever in-depth post-competition mentor program.

May 17

The Future of X: Radio:

Its death has been proclaimed numerous times before and yet, radio remains the number one platform in terms of adult reach. The continued growth of mobile devices, podcasts, and connected cars have added new utility, creativity and audiences, making audio the most resilient media out there. What’s next for this ever-evolving medium?

Join LMHQ + radio powerhouse WNYC for a keynote and panel conversation about the future of radio.

May 19

New York’s Next Top Makers Showcase at Brooklyn Army Terminal:

You’re invited to NYCEDC’s New York’s Next Top Makers Showcase for our 2015-16 cohort. Meet Next Top Makers companies from across the community before and after the program and hear presentations from our six Fellow companies. The event is invite only; cocktails and light fare will be served. The presentations will start promptly at 7pm.

Impossibilities: Citizen Bridge:

The first citizen-built and longest temporary bridge in New York City history, Citizen Bridge is a floating pedestrian bridge to reclaim the city’s waterways as public space. Citizen Bridge is about the collective power of citizens to reshape their cities, from the waterline up. Normally, large pieces of infrastructure are instruments of political will; in this case, Citizen Bridge is an act of community goodwill.

Join designer Nancy Nowacek for a present on Citizen Bridge, a temporary bridge to reconnect New Yorkers to their waterways. Follow Citizen Bridge on Twitter at @CtznBrdg and on Tumblr.

May 25

DEP Green Infrastructure Workshop:

This New York City Department of Environmental Protection grant program offers funding for the design and construction of green infrastructure systems for qualified private properties in New York City. The Green Infrastructure Grant Workshop is an opportunity for people to learn about eligibility requirements, guidance through the application process, and a discussion on the programmatic details.

May 31

Shaping Smart Cities: Where from? Where to? What’s missing?:

Towards the realization of a better, “smarter” city, the School of Design Strategies, Master Card, CH2M, and Meeting of the Minds present this first of many conversations on the role of data and the “smart” city from the intersecting perspectives of three sectors – the public, the private, and the intermediary. Each are actively engaged and committed to speaking across sectors to one another in search of the “smarter” city.

Sneak preview for June 9th and 10th:

Get your Personal Democracy Forum tickets now!

Get Inside the Game with Playcrafting this May


Something is in the water in New York. No, it’s not alligators, or that secret ingredient that makes bagels taste so darn good. It’s technology. Every year, we’re seeing more and more bright minds coming into the city ready to learn tech skills and put them to good use. And Playcrafting is thrilled to be part of that.

Our organization likes to wear many hats. While we support local game developers and host events where gamers can play to their hearts content, we also make sure that the next generation of game developers stays in New York. Our standalone classes and 8-week courses are designed to make sure that anyone who wants to create their own game can.

Here’s what we have in store to kick off the summer — join us, won’t you?

May 4

100 games. 700 players. 1 night. And pizza! Our Spring Playcrafting expo takes place this Wednesday with more games than ever.

May 16

Dive into the realm of virtual reality. Microsoft is sponsoring a class on gaming with Unity’s VR tech, taught by Adina Shanholtz. Microsoft is the flagship global sponsor of Playcrafting, hosting events and education in NYC, SF & Boston as well as our annual Global Game Jam site!

May 25

See what the next generation of developers are creating! We’re hosting games created by students from local colleges and university at our PC Demo & Play Night.


Our 8-week courses kick off this June. Want to learn more? Join our info session on June 1 to get the full scoop.

And there’s so much more. Follow us on Twitter @PlaycraftingNYC or subscribe to our newsletter here to stay up-to-date on all our Playcrafting happenings.