Wi-Fi Hot Spots Coming to Pay Phone Kiosks in New York City

Jul 15, 12 Wi-Fi Hot Spots Coming to Pay Phone Kiosks in New York City

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Just when you thought living in New York could not get any more fun, the powers that be have decided to embark on a program to get more of the city wired- by placing Wi-Fi hot spots around town. And where better to put a hot-spot than in what used to be New Yorkers' main mode of communication when out on the town; a public pay-phone kiosk. "What we are doing is taking the current infrastructure that we have already have, leverage it up, add few more technological advance and, frankly, with the new information age you can put so much information and pack it up into small devices," said Rahul Merchant, Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer. In case you were thinking that these kiosks should go the way of the dinosaur, think again. First of all, it’s kind of nice to have those pay phones around just in case your cell-phone’s battery runs out, or your phone is lost, stolen, or dropped in a fountain during lunch hour. Apparently this happens more often than you might guess; New York’s pay phones were used to make 27 million calls last year, excluding emergency calls to 911. So if the phones are staying, might as well make them more useful, and so the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications– (did you know we had such a department?) posted a “Request for Information” document soliciting ideas from the public for what to do with our pay phone kiosks. The DITT came up with a few ideas of their own for the sidewalk phones, including making the kiosks into power stations or possibly adding touch screens into the booths with information and maps and other helpful forms of media. But according to Rachel Sterne, New York’s Chief Digital Officer, the most popular idea seems to be creating Wi-Fi hot-spots out of the kiosks, and the project is already underway on a small scale. So far, out of the city’s 12,000 phone booths 10 have already been...

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Space Shuttle Thrills Brooklyn as It Travels to New Home

In what is proving to be an exciting last ride, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was flown to JFK Airport piggy-back-style on a Boeing 747 from Washington’s Dulles Airport on April 23, where it already thrilled spectators as it made a fly-by past the Statue of Liberty, and a perfect landing at JFK. The shuttle was kept at JFK until it was put on a barge and floated to Port Elizabeth, New Jersey this past Sunday. Sunday’s trip took the Enterprise along the southern shoreline of Brooklyn, passing such easily accessible locales as the boardwalk in Brighton Beach and Coney Island. The huge shuttle also passed under a number of New York bridges, including Marine Park’s Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. From Staten Island a wonderful photogenic moment was enjoyed as the shuttle could be seen passing by the Statue of Liberty, in a watery replay of its fly-by about 6 weeks ago. Brooklynites, New Yorkers in general and visitors gathered to watch the spectacle, and were thrilled to see the shuttle floating down their waterways. “I was hoping that it would come a little bit closer to the shore but it was still a lot of fun. Hopefully I will get a glimpse closer in the coming days or on the actual Intrepid when it winds up there,” one onlooker said. The Enterprise never actually entered space but was a prototype used exclusively for approach and landing tests as well as being used to conduct sixteen atmospheric flight tests. On Wednesday the Enterprise will make the last leg of its journey to retirement as it proceeds from Port Elizabeth and heads on over to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on Manhattan’s west side. The Enterprise Space Shuttle will be ready for visitors beginning on July 19,...

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Judge Rules DA Can Subpeona Defendent’s Tweets

Apr 25, 12 Judge Rules DA Can Subpeona Defendent’s Tweets

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Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Mathew A. Sciarrino Jr. ruled that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office may subpoena the “tweets” of an Occupy Wall Street protestor who was arrested for disorderly conduct on the Brooklyn Bridge last October. Despite the protests of the defendent, Malcolm Harris, the judge decided that it was not unreasonable for prosecutors to have access to his public tweets beginning several weeks before, and for months after his arrest, as the judge explained in his ruling delivered on Friday, “There are, in fact, reasonable grounds to believe the information sought was relevant and material to this investigation,” Sciarrino wrote in his decision. The judge added that Harris has no legal standing to block a subpoena which is directed to Twitter Inc, and not to him. In a coy reference to the world of Twitter Judge Sciarrino sprinkled into his decision the beloved hashtags which Twitter fans use to denote keywords. “Harris’ bid to quash the subpoena is denied” wrote Sciarrino, placing hashtags next to keywords “quash” and “denied.” Sciarrino added that he would deal with the privacy issue by reviewing Harris’ tweets before handing them over to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The decision has privacy advocates and at least one retired civil court judge alarmed. They join Harris’ lawyer in their dismay at the long time period of tweets that the DA is requesting, saying it is broad beyond reason. They added that, despite the fact that the tweets were sent publicly, the other user information which come along with the tweets violates Harris rights to privacy and free association. The twitter data can easily give prosecutors a view of Harris’ followers, their interactions via replies and “retweets” and also his location at various points in time, explained Harris’ lawyer Martin Stolar. “There’s a whole universe of information out there that deals with the associations that Mr. Harris has,” Stolar said at a court hearing in March. “Here, there is a privacy interest in his communications with other people.” Stolar...

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New York Libraries Updating for the 21st Century

Apr 11, 12 New York Libraries Updating for the 21st Century

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The New York, Brooklyn and Queens public libraries are changing the focal point of the institution away from books and towards meeting what many see as more the more relevant needs of the communities which they serve. President of the Brooklyn Public Library, Linda Johnson explained: “Any new library would not be a repository of books by any stretch.   It’s really about the programming. It’s really about how to use the spaces we have to meet our patrons’ needs.” At Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn’s central library, officials are creating a new technology center with an emphasis on creating space where people can collaborate on projects. There is a plan to develop rehearsal rooms and artists’ studios in some of the branches, hoping to be more useful to Brooklyn’s artist community. In addition, the Brooklyn Public Library is thinking about developing a hub-and-spokes type network which will work on three levels: the central library, regional community centers, and smaller libraries serving neighborhoods, with a focus on after-school meeting places and work spaces for students, added Linda Johnson. Ms. Johnson continued to explain how the people using the libraries today have different needs than people in the past. New immigrants need help applying on-line for US visas; English-as-a-second-language classes; and foreign language materials. People without jobs can be coached by library staff on how to write resumes, how to look for a job, and even how to create e-mail accounts. Libraries are often the only place many New Yorkers can access computers and internet. They are more and more becoming places where patrons can get counseling for troubled teens and guidance on how to acquire the wide array of social services and other help they may need. In order to achieve this list of goals for the libraries, many of the books will need to be stored off-site, where they can be preserved in more favorable conditions. Visitors who still wish to get a book from the library will be able to request it and have...

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By Brooklyn Shop Getting Business Boost from Hi-Tech

Mar 21, 12 By Brooklyn Shop Getting Business Boost from Hi-Tech

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As technology marches on, it seems to be taking us in directions further away from the simpler things in life. However, in the case of at least one kind of new technology, small businesses, like mom and pop shops, could benefit immensely. Location savvy mobile devices, cheap apps and cloud computing have already begun sending consumers back to shopping at family owned neighborhood businesses, helping a segment of the marketplace which not too long ago seemed to be going the way of the dinosaur. Independent merchants have already seen how on-line companies can help their business. Groupon offers daily deals; FourSquare with its “place-based social media” focus, has brought business back to real, brick and board stores. The next phase of technology helping small business has begun with a class of startup companies which concentrate their focus on keeping customers loyal, coming back again and again. Gaia DiLoreto is the owner of By Brooklyn, a Brooklyn-based shop that sells a wide variety of “fine goods” which are made exclusively in Brooklyn. “I’m always looking for ways to attract new business, but especially to encourage repeat business,” says DiLoreto. ” A regular customer is my best customer.” In her efforts to keep those customers coming back for more of her selection of jewelry,  household  goods (like the fortuitously named Gowanus Sink, shown above), food, clothing, and a lot more, DiLoreto signed up recently with Perka. This Portland, Oregon based startup offers a simple-to-use app which lets customers earn rewards every time they make a purchase. Perka, and other companies like it, basically replace the little cards which were punched with holes after each purchase, then after ten, or whatever number of purchases, the customer receives a reward, whether it is a free additional product, or a discount. The app, which is inside the customer’s smart phone or other mobile device, has the distinct advantage of   not getting lost just before the customer has earned the discount. These apps have an additional appeal over the punch cards;   that...

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Trees (and Crops!) Grow in Brooklyn

Who’d a thought it, but Brooklyn is going green. OK, it’s not exactly rolling hills of waving wheat, but the planned, 45,000 square foot rooftop farm will supply honest to goodness edible food to local shops, restaurants, and other folks. And not just edible, but organic for goodness’ sake. Andrew Kimball runs the city’s Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation with its current 275 businesses renting space there. Kimball explained that, “We were looking to be creative, and we found a perfect use for this underutilized roof.” Kimball was lucky to find Ben Flanner, co-founder of Brooklyn Grange and its head farmer, to invest in the rooftop with his innovative inner-city farming methods. Currently Brooklyn Grange is based in Long Island City (despite its name.) Flanner is “very excited” to be expanding into the borough whose name his wholesome enterprise bares. He said that the rooftop farm “will be covered in a lightweight soil about a foot deep with almost every square foot used to grow fruits and vegetables.” Learn more about this innovative farm and its Brooklyn local at Flushing Avenue and Cumberland...

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