NYC Launches Two Civic Tech Competitions To Strengthen Tenant Protection Rights And Mental Health Access In Upper Manhattan

February 26, 2020

The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) together with City agencies and the communities of Inwood and Washington Heights today announced the opening of applications for innovative.

This includes tech-enabled solutions from startups, technologists, and innovators from across the globe.

“It is essential technology play a pivotal role in solving for the problems New Yorkers face daily – like access to mental health care and strengthening tenant protections,” said Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin. “That is why I am so excited about the possibilities of this competition and looking forward to the solutions brought forth by startups and individuals from across the globe.”

“Partnerships between government and communities are critical to creating programs that effectively reach people,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “New York City is committed to ensuring every person, regardless of what neighborhood they live in, has access to the mental health support they need. We are excited to review proposals from innovators for Inwood and Washington Heights that will help us reach more New Yorkers.”

“A smart city designs with and for communities to solve real-world problems,” said John Paul Farmer, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York. “Our NYCx Co-Lab in Inwood is a genuine partnership between neighborhood and local government, established to surface new ideas and approaches that address the needs of residents. We invite the boldest innovators – from anywhere and everywhere, including right here in Inwood – to help us identify how we can better serve New Yorkers.”

“Innovation and technology play a critical role in addressing major societal issues,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “NYCx Co-Labs tech competitions represent an innovative approach to strengthen communities, empower New Yorkers and deliver real impact. We’d like to thank our government and community partners in Inwood and Washington Heights who helped make this initiative possible.”

“Since taking office in 2009, I have been committed to bringing much needed resources to Northern Manhattan. Technology has the potential to solve many social and economic problems impacting underserved communities like Washington Heights and Inwood. Additionally, I am proud to say that Northern Manhattan will be the first community in the nation to have a fully integrated robotics program in all schools. We will be a role model for other underserved communities to follow,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez of District 10. “I am proud to be working alongside Mayor de Blasio, MOCTO, MOPT, Thrive NYC, EDC, my colleagues, and the Northern Manhattan CBOs to bring technology and innovation uptown.”

“Housing and mental health are two of the most pressing issues that New York is facing today, and we as lawmakers should be exploring every avenue to come up with solutions,” said Council Member Robert Holden, chair of the City Council Committee on Technology. “I am proud to see the Chief Technology Officer and Economic Development Corporation creating challenges that will encourage New Yorkers to use technology in innovative and inspiring new ways to address these issues. There is almost no problem that can’t be improved or solved through the use of technology.”

The NYCx Co-Labs: Housing Rights Challenge is a partnership between MOCTO, NYCEDC, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the New York City Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants (MOPT). The Challenge seeks proposals to help the City provide more strategic, targeted, and tailored information to tenants in the Inwood and Washington Heights neighborhood about housing rights and enable residents to take protective action. Winning proposals would empower residents to claim their rights or would connect them with community-based organizations (CBOs), resources, or relevant City services. Applicants should focus proposals on tenant education and outreach, solutions that simplify laws, regulations, and procedures. The City is also looking for strategies that improve a CBOs ability to provide tenants’ rights resources in the neighborhood.

“This administration is committed to using every tool at our disposal to combat tenant harassment and displacement, especially in communities that are increasingly feeling the pressures of the affordable housing crisis. Through the NYCx Co-Labs Housing Rights Challenge, we’re looking to leverage the forward-thinking minds in tech to find lasting solutions for New Yorkers in need,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “I thank our partners at the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer and NYCEDC for their collaboration on this project, and look forward to seeing what innovative proposals come in.”

“Making sure tenants have the information they need to band together to hold their landlords accountable is part of our job,” said Jackie Bray Director, Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants. “We’re thrilled to partner with other city agencies to leverage technology to reach more tenants and help more New Yorkers remain stably housed in quality homes.”

The NYCx Co-Labs: Accessible Mental Health Challenge is a partnership between MOCTO, NYCEDC, and the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC. The Challenge seeks proposals to improve mental health among Latinx youth (13 – 18 years old) through tools and technologies that improve vulnerable youths’ awareness of and access to resources. In New York City, nearly 20% of Latinx adolescents report having seriously considered suicide. Winning proposals will propose tools and resources that make it easier for Latinx youth to understand mental health and mental illness and how to get support when needed while helping reduce stigma around mental health issues. Applicants should address the needs of Latinx youth, mental health service providers, or organizations that provide mental health education and services and accommodate language barriers and cultural differences associated with the largely Spanish-speaking, foreign-born population in Inwood and Washington Heights.

“Teen suicide is up 56% in the US from 2007 to 2017, with research showing Latina youth have the highest rate of ideation and attempts but are less likely to receive treatment than their peers. This must change. The Office of ThriveNYC encourages all parts of government to promote mental health. This is an exciting collaboration, and I am confident we will develop new solutions for young Latinx residents of Inwood and Washington Heights,” said Susan Herman, Director of the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC.

“Too often, mental health interventions, especially for vulnerable populations like youth, are top-down or diminish the importance of the specific cultural dimensions of the community,” said Ralph Vacca, Assistant Professor at Fordham University. We know mental health is foundational and interconnected to so many other aspects of local youth life such as nutrition, safety, housing, home life, peer relationships, school life, language, and bicultural conflicts. I am excited about this challenge, because in co-designing with the community and not just for the community, NYCx Co-Labs allows for a centering of these unique local Latinx cultural resources and contexts that will result in more authentic and sustainable approaches.”

“As a Tech Board member, Startup Founder and Father of teens, these challenges really hit home for me. Mental Health issues stem from immigration issues to lack of housing,” said Jose Salcedo, CEO & Founder, Traiilo. “The lack of housing development, coupled with slow growth in wages, is making Inwood and Washington Heights less affordable. Our community has the largest population of young teens in NYC, our adults of the future. How will they adjust to these changes? We must help solve this and I believe technology will be the key component.”

“NewYork-Presbyterian is proud to be part of the Technical Advisory Board for the NYCxCo-Labs Challenge,” said Dr. Bruce Forman, a director of Information Services at NewYork-Presbyterian. “This project enables us to better understand the challenges our patients and neighbors face in the communities we serve. We look forward to continuing to support the work of the NYCx Co-Labs program.”

“The NYCx Co-Labs program is an example of how inclusive innovation can address pressing local challenges though global frameworks. The DQ Institute is committed to building multi-stakeholder coalitions to challenge inequality. The NYCx Co-Labs: Accessible Mental Health Challenge is an outstanding example of how innovation can be used to empower young immigrant communities not only in the US, but across the World,” said Dr. Yuhyun Park, Founder of DQ Institute.

Up to two winners will be selected for each Challenge. Winners will be eligible to receive up to US $20,000 and pilot their technology in New York City, in partnership with City agencies, for up to one year. The application period for the Challenges begins February 26, 2020 and will be open through April 7, 2020. Finalists will be selected in Spring 2020 with pilots expected to launch in Fall 2020.

The NYCx Co-Labs: Housing Rights Challenge and Accessible Mental Health Challenge were developed through a series of participatory workshops with community experts in the Inwood and Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City. In August 2018, The NYCx Co-Labs program convened 35 residents, including representatives of 25 community-based organizations, and entrepreneurs from Inwood and Washington Heights to discuss housing, education, health, arts and culture, small businesses, and immigrant affairs with the goal of identifying priority issues in the community. This research was complemented with six one-on-one interviews with local healthcare professionals and stakeholders, one workshop with local tenant organizers, 191 local data points from the OneNYC challenge survey, expert interviews, a literature review, and participatory workshops with City agencies.

NYCx Co-Labs is a civic innovation program managed by the New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). The program combines community building, participatory research, tech education and open innovation challenges to address urban inequality across neighborhoods. NYCx Co-Labs brings together a set of partners — from government, local non-profit organizations, technology companies, communities, and foundations — through various events, workshops, and community spaces to accelerate the development of new tech-enabled solutions that solve a community’s most pressing issues.

Applications can be submitted through April 7, 2020.

The Mayor’s Office of the CTO is led by the New York City Chief Technology Officer. We’re making broadband, smart city technologies, digital services, and the tech industry work for all New Yorkers. Learn more at

New York City Economic Development Corporation creates shared prosperity across New York City’s five boroughs by strengthening neighborhoods and creating good jobs. NYCEDC works with and for communities to provide them with the resources they need to thrive, and we invest in projects that increase sustainability, support job growth, develop talent, and spark innovation to strengthen the City’s competitive advantage. To learn more about our work and initiatives, To learn more about our work and initiatives, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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