2012 Noise Complaints by ZIP code

Noise City: For some New Yorkers, excessive noise is part of life’s daily fabric; a constant sonic texture underneath home life, work life, commuting and sleep. But a surprising majority of New Yorkers enjoy the same bucolic lack of noise as their suburban counterparts. Where does your neighborhood fall on that spectrum? We’ve mapped all of the noise complaints reported to 311 in 2012 to New York City’s ZIP codes.

Some highlights: Williamsburg (11211) has wrested the Noisiest-ZIP crown from the East Village/Alphabet City (10003) for the first time. Midtown West near Penn Station (10119 + 10129) and Downtown Brooklyn surrounding Borough Hall (11242) tied for the lowest number of noise complaints, with only two each in 2012. Of course, this could be because nobody bothers to report excessive noise around two of the city’s largest transit hubs, Penn Station and Atlantic Terminal. The East 70s of Manhattan near Gracie Mansion tied with Floral Park, Queens for the fewest complaints in a primarily-residential neighborhood, with five each.

Pre-Kindergarten Funding & Costs Vary Nationwide: Top Debate Issue in New York – Alexis Barnes

Funding universal pre-kindergarten is an economic and educational investment.

“The interactions pre school students get by being around other children their age is vital,” said Washington D.C. kindergarten teacher, Sola Zaccheus. “Preschool creates thinkers, problem solvers and readers.”

Zaccheus works at Arts and Technology PCS in Washington D.C. where all pre-k classes are full-day, and the early childhood educator already has some of her students reading before they reach kindergarten.

With more than 19 billion children under the age of five in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, pre-kindergarten education is in high demand. The District of Columbia and 38 states offer and fund some form of pre-k programming. More than 1.3 million attended these programs in 2012.

New York has offered universal pre-k since 1997, with a five-year commitment that funding programs for all four-year-olds would take place by 2002. NY four-year olds, about 120,000 according to the National Early Education Research Institute, are provided at least half-day programming.

The average annual costs for center-based pre-K care ranges from $4,312 in Mississippi to $12,355 in New York, according to a 2013 report by Child Care Aware America.

Nationwide, the costs of preschool vary but New York tops the list of least affordable states for a four-year-old. Annually, the state averages $12,355 in costs per child in a center-based program.

Although highest in costs, New York sits low on the list of spending with $3,707 of funding per student, while New Jersey shells out $11,659. Below, New York’s expenditures do not make rank in the nation’s top ten states in average spending per pupil.

The New York City Department of Education currently offers half-day and full day free preschool options at public school and community-based organizations, but competition is high and spots are limited.

For fall 2013, there are 20,000 full-day pre-K seats and 23,000 half-day seats. Each year, about 22,000 4-year-olds do not have the chance to enroll in Department of Education-backed pre-K programs. This deficit creates notoriously long wait lists and school overflow.

Harlem father, Craig Parker, ended up paying weekly for his daughter’s private pre-K program after dealing with public pre-K lotteries.

“The programs, they either cost more or you’re too late and have to wait forever,” said Parker.

A 2012 American Community Survey estimated 544,369 children under the age of five residing in New York City. With half a million little city residents, a new movement for truly universal preschool aims at making preschool education available to all families.

According to a study by the Campaign for Educational Equity and the Center for Children’s Initiatives, New York State would have to pay $225 million to fund universal preschool in its first year.

Currently, NY State gives school districts $385 million annually for pre-K.

The question of funding was a major campaign topic of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who promised to raise taxes for New Yorkers earning $500,000 or more, in part, to create truly universal pre-K programs.

The mayor-elect’s taxation proposal, which would raise revenue amounting to $580 million, has the backing of a majority of statewide voters with 63 percent supporting the proposed tax hike, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

“New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s campaign issue, raising taxes on the well-to-do in the city to pay for improvements in education, wins solid approval in every corner of the state, except among Republicans,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Although pre-K funding remains a debatable issue, Zaccheus is sure the benefits of early education should be a factor in the funding dilemma.

“Gross and fine motor skills development, emotional, and cognitive skills are promoted,” said Zaccheus. “ This time is truly invaluable and sets the foundation that all other education builds on.”

Motal/Cullen Data Viz — UFT City Council Contributions


The United Federation of Teachers donated more than $88,000 to City Council campaigns throughout this election season, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. More than half of that money went to races in Queens and Manhattan for a total of 56.3 percent, or $49,600.

Brooklyn, where seven out of 16 council campaigns received UFT funding, came in third with $19,250 in donations. Races in the Bronx and Staten Island got $13,750 and $5,500, respectively.

The union, which represents more than 200,000 city education workers, has been a force for city elections for years.

Twenty nine out of the 31 candidates who received funding went on to win in the Nov. 5 general election.

Although UFT-backed candidates are typically Democrats, three republicans received funding and backing from the super union. Republican Councilmen Steven Matteo and Eric Ulrich each received $2,750 – the maximum that can be donated – and Councilman Vincent Ignizio received $1,000.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, a former educator representing Jackson Heights, ran unopposed and was the only to fall into the $100 to $750 range.

Twenty-six candidates received the capped amount a union or political action group can donate, $2,750. Most of these contributions were spread throughout Brooklyn, Queens, Upper Manhattan and The Bronx.

Councilmen Steven Levin, of Brooklyn, and Ydanis Rodriguez, of Upper Manhattan, fell within the $1,425 to $2,100 category.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew originally opted for former Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary. When Thompson chose not to force a recount after coming in only a few points behind now Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, the union moved its endorsement to the eventual winner.

Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant who advised the Thompson campaign, said the UFT wields considerable power – and a big dowry – in New York City elections.

“Sometimes when you raise your head and you show you have a checkbook, it influences elections, not just legislation,” Sheinkopf said.

The union’s focus on outer borough races, Sheinkopf said, was to cultivate the emerging immigrant communities in the city. Along with that, however, was an obligation for the 29 UFT-financed candidates who won to work with the union on education issues.

While nearly $90,000 for council races across the city is not a hefty number by election standards. Sheinkopf, however, said the number of candidates donated to – in more than half the city’s 51 districts – helped the UFT gain ground with the new legislature.

“If you’re running for anything in the city, you want the UFT smiling on you,” he said. “You don’t want them frowning on you.”

And for those winners, he said, it’s “now imprinted that they’re going to see somebody in the UFT when they’re in the legislation. And that is a big thing.”

Brody Data Viz — Brooklyn’s Youth Makes It Uninsured

Percent of Civilian, Non-Institutionalized People With No Health Insurance

The home page of the healthcare.gov website that Americans can now (mostly) use to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act offers a catchall drop-down menu on “All Topics” near its top. The menu contains an introduction to the act’s insurance marketplace, explanations of rights and other information. There are also links to pages for two types of insurance customers. One page is for businesses. The other is for young people.

According to Kenneth Gould, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, that’s no accident.

“In the United Stated, we now have this extended adolescence that lasts until you’re 40,” Gould, who has studied gentrification in New York City by younger residents, said. “The settling down and getting your health insurance and getting a will is happening later and later for people.”

Gould said that trend helps explains the map above, which plots health insurance coverage rates in New York City Congressional districts in 2012, the eve of the the health law’s rollout.

He was talking specifically about that spring-leaf green slice of northwest Brooklyn and the Lower East of Manhattan, the one outlined in yellow.

That’s New York’s 7th Congressional district. It sports the second-darkest green on the map — meaning that, according to the Census’s American Community Survey, the district had the second-lowest percentage of residents with health insurance, either public or private, of any district in the city, at 82.9 percent. Yet the 7th doesn’t fit the demographic profile of what we often, usually for good reason, think of as defining a less-insured district. Unlike residents of the darkest district, the 14th in northern Queens and the east Bronx, those in 7th have high median incomes. And aside from a few area, the district doesn’t have huge pockets of immigrants. In fact, it boasts neighborhoods where median incomes and property values have soared over the last decade — Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Park Slope and Fort Greene — as well as rapidly gentrifying areas like Williamsburg and Red Hook.

Instead, as Gould points out, the 7th is just young.

Gould said that, since 2000, the neighborhoods in the district have seen a tremendous influx of “white, college-educated young professionals and the creative class, 20-somethings and early-30-somethings.”

(In fact, as the map below shows, the 7th is the second-youngest district in the city as well if you measure by residents’ median age.)

In another era, the young residents of the 7th might have received insurance through jobs.

Now, though, Gould said, “they tend to be in non-traditional jobs,” like part-time or freelance work in creative fields, that don’t always offer insurance but do generate enough income that residents no longer qualify for Medicare.

“Let’s face it,” Gould said, “everybody’s office is Starbucks now.”

Percent of Employed, Civilian, Non-Institutionalized People Over 18 With No Health Insurance

Indeed, as this map shows, even among those whom the Census considers to be employed, coverage rates are low in the 7th, with only three-quarters of the civilian, non-institutionalized employed population over age 18 covered.

Gould pointed out that, of course, that still leaves room for lots of people who have insurance, often through traditional jobs. Yet he said there are enough freelance graphic designers to set the 7th apart from districts where 85 or 90 percent of residents have coverage.

“The stereotype is true enough and the transition has been enough to give you the” difference between districts, he said.

He said we can’t be sure that age is the only factor, especially with such macro-level data. (His colleague, Jerry Krase, argued, for instance, that the presence of a good number of public housing projects in the 7th affects the numbers greatly too.)

“But is it a reasonable hypothesis?” Gould asked rhetorically. “Yeah, I think so.”

Data Viz: Winter discourages bike riders


Fewer people are using the bike-sharing system in New York City as winter is here and the temperature is heading down. Since Citi Bike was launched six months ago, the total number of trips made has reached more than 5.7 million. But with the Citi Bike’s first winter coming, the growing trend has been broken.

Total bike trips in November dropped 34 percent to 0.7 million from more than 1 million in October, despite 1820 more people sign up for an annual membership.


An average of 540 24-hour passes were purchased a day in November, down from 1100 in October. A 24-hour pass includes an unlimited number of 30-minute rides for $9.95, which is often a better choice for short-term tourist purposes.

Tourists’ willingness to use the bikes was greatly affected by the weather condition. Purchases of a 24-hour pass increased when higher temperatures were observed, while a clear decrease in purchase in lower temperatures was seen.


Tammi Moore from Florida, 52, visited Central Park for the first time with her friend Wunda Rhodes, 60, from South Carolina. She said it was a pity that it was too cold and wet to give Citi Bike a try.

“I was just telling her [my friend],” she said, “if it was a pretty day, we could ride the bike.”

“We might use them,” said another tourist at Central Park, Terri Grasser, 55, from Wisconsin. “We’ve seen people riding in the park. That’d be a lot of fun if the weather’s nice.”

Some commuters said they are not discouraged by the cold weather. Mark Hendel, a 27-year-old engineer, who had signed up for an annual Citi Bike membership soon after it launched, said low temperature is not as big a problem for him as rain.

“I’m a pretty persistent biker,” he said. “If it’s cold, I can wear gloves and hat, but if it’s raining, I won’t ride.”

Hendel, who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, said he would use the Citi Bike more often if there were more stations available in his neighborhood.

The service of Citi Bike includes Manhattan (below 59th street) and a couple of neighborhood in the western part of Brooklyn. The city plans to extend the system next year, covering more neighborhoods including Upper West and Upper East sides, Cobble Hill and Park Slope in Brooklyn.

(If the one above doesn’t show up. Look at this one.)

Right now, there are currently 331 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The usage of bike in Brooklyn remains relatively low. In Bedford Stuyvesant, for example, only an average of 35.2 bikes were taken or returned at a station, which is one-tenth of the bike take-outs and returns in Union Square in Manhattan.


Citi Bike http://citibikenyc.com

Citi Bike Stats https://sites.google.com/site/citibikestats/home

The Weather Channel http://www.weather.com/weather/monthly/10012?month=-1


GPS Visualizer’s Quick Geocoder http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/geocode

FusionTablesLayer Wizard http://fusion-tables-api-samples.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/FusionTablesLayerWizard/src/index.html


Graffiti in NYC: Vandalism or Street Art?

By Emma Hernandez and Leila Falls

Taking a can of spray paint and writing your name on city property, otherwise known as tagging up, is considered vandalism in New York City. The art form rose in the 1970s along with hip-hop culture, and now the crime usually ends up as a misdemeanor with a $150 fine. In 1993, a building in Long Island City was offered up as a blank canvas for artists as a truce in the war against graffiti.

That building, now known as 5 Pointz, is recognized as a graffiti mecca. Last month, owner Jerry Wolkoff whitewashed the building in preparation for its demolition to make space for high-rise luxury condos. This caused an uproar in the graffiti community and a cultural divide in the city between people who view graffiti as vandalism and those who view it as street art.

Vera Wolf, professor of art history at SUNY New Paltz, was recently featured in SUNY’s “Ask an Expert” series on the subject of graffiti in today’s society. She said the word choice—graffiti or street art—all depends on how the terms are used and who is using them.

“There always will be mixed reactions to graffiti, almost by definition,” said Wolf.

NYC’s information hotline, 311, receives graffiti complaints daily. In a one-month span, 1,204 complaints were filed throughout all five boroughs. The city takes vandalism seriously and the 311 website prompts residents to dial 911 to report graffiti or vandalism in progress.

The City-Wide Vandals Task Force takes graffiti complaints and categorizes them as gang, satanic, street, generic, or hate.

“If someone draws a swastika, that’s considered a hate crime,” said a phone representative for the task force, “we take that seriously.”

The complaints range in severity.

“We handle everything, big or small,” he said, “even if Timmy writes his name on a desk.”

The task force keeps an eye out for what they call “graffiti tourists,” which are people who travel to NYC to tag up. The most recent and most notorious is Banksy, a British artist who left his mark in every borough during his residency. One of his works—a vandalized thrift store painting—sold for $615,00 at a charity auction at the end of October.

In a recent social media poll, young adults living in NYC and ranging from ages 18-34 said they consider graffiti as street art instead of vandalism, which makes it more acceptable as a form of artistic expression.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 9.39.29 PM

The Museum of The City of New York plans to feature an exhibit next February called “City as Canvas,” a documentation of the rise of street art and graffiti in New York City from the collection of Martin Wong, one of the first collectors of the form.

“This is first time displaying an expansive street art collection,” said Justyna Zajac, of the museum’s press office.

Professor Wolf explains the conflicting views on graffiti in modern culture.

“As art, graffiti exposes our deep contradictions as a society,” Wolf said.

“We are fascinated by clever and interesting graffiti, just as we are by compelling art.”

Emilie, Gabriella, Thad Data Viz

For generations of Americans, the holiday season brings to mind familiar Coca-Cola polar bears crawling out of their dens and into our advertising landscape.  But this year, another aspect of the American love affair with our fizzy, sugary drinks is becoming more and more accepted by society as fact; one of the root causes of such maladies as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome is now widely understood to be soda.  A battle cry against sugary beverages—widely publicized in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s thwarted efforts to restrict the sale of supersize soda drinks citywide—has just been answered in Mexico.

Mexico has just passed a tax on certain junk foods with large amounts of added sugar, namely soda, in early November.  The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and will require consumers to pay a one-peso (approximately 8 cent) tax on every liter of sugary beverages.  Mexico consumes more soda per person than any other nation on Earth.  At an average of 497 12 ounce cans per year, the average Mexican drinks more soda than even the average American (the United States only comes in at fourth place). Are the soda and obesity rates a coincidence?

No, not at all, says Dr. Jeffrey Ritterman, an activist who has unsuccessfully pushed for a soda tax in his own hometown of Richmond, California.  Ritterman is a retired cardiologist and getting the word out about the dangers of soda has become his cause célèbre.  He outlined his take the problem succinctly and eloquently in his Op-Ed published this week in the San Francisco Chronicle, entitled “Soda-tax wars are ground zero of obesity fight.”

“I think it needs to be taxed heavily,” Ritterman, 64, said.  “Soda companies have advertising and airwaves.  We are getting the medical costs that are consuming us.”

Ritterman was invited to Mexico directly ahead of the Mexican senate’s vote on the new taxation law.  He collaborated with the NGO heading the public relations effort to gain citizens’ support for the law, whose primary objective is their wellbeing: to improve the health of Mexicans who are at the mercy of soda companies and certain realities of life there—like a lack of clean water to reach for instead of a can of soda.

“It is an issue that cuts in so many ways—global, human health,” notes Ritterman.

Even though New York State is at the bottom as far as obesity in the United States goes (it ranks as the 47th most obese), Mayor Bloomberg is recognized as the leading politician in the push for taxing and restricting soda consumption, and a model for Ritterman.  In Mexico, his foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies provided significant funding for the sugar tax campaign.  Ritterman says people should expect to see Bloomberg Philanthropies funding similar efforts in other Latin American countries in the future, while efforts in America remain stalled as a result of the strong arm of the beverage lobbies.

Dr. Marion Nestle, a Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU, also travelled to Mexico ahead of the vote.  She says America should absolutely implement laws like Mexico’s, along with a push for “education, of course, but also taxes and restrictions of serving size.”

The distinct challenge with soda for the average person is that “the calories go down easily it’s easy to take in too many and gain weight,” said Nestle via email.

That was certainly the case for Chris Curtis, a flight school student in Delaware who recently lost 50 pounds over the course of six months last year, but is still technically considered obese.

When he started working on his goal to lose weight, Curtis, 23, joined a Crossfit gym.

“My teacher said if you are still drinking soda during this, you are not going to last,” Curtis said.  “I was actually still drinking soda a week into Crossfit and just lying to her, but she could totally tell.”

Based on his experience as a now-former soda drinker who at his highest point of consumption was drinking three 20-ounce bottles of Diet Coke per day, thinks that soda is highly addictive.

He completely supports Bloomberg’s efforts to push for soda taxation.

“Sugar should really be classified as a drug,” Curtis said.  “Smaller portions would help.”

If the pursuit of better public heath through targeting of soda consumption follows in the footsteps of the similar fight against cigarettes that began two generations ago in America, then overweight and obese people like Chris Curtis might get help from regulators in overcoming their sugar addiction and weight problems in achieving a better quality of life.

For now, Americans must look south to Mexico as a model of how to proceed on this new frontier in the fight against obesity.


The darkest dots are countries that consume the most soda annual (Coca Cola Report) When you click on the map, you will see obesity rates for men and women in each country (IASO Report). People who are “overweight” have a BMI between 25%-29.9% while people who are “obese” have a BMI 30% and over

The biggest dots on the map show the states ranks highest for obesity in the United States (RWJF Report) and is split between percent of male and female out of the entire population of each state.

The darkest shaded boroughs are the areas in NYC that consume the most sugary drinks and have the highest percentage of obesity rates (NYC.gov)

Gabriella Portfolio


Overall, for now, I think this is OK at best.

When I see how clean and sleek everyone else’s looks, I’m not in love with the grey layout or my font. It’s not a “wow” website.  For the amount of time I spent with it, it comes across like I simply copy and pasted stuff in and made a generic website. I like the minimal theme, but want to customize it more for what I’m looking for (I may have to change it all together because there is too many customizing options and I’m afraid it might be too complicated to maintain). I like that Rebecca had boxes even for her written content, my lack of imagination figured written content can’t be in picture form. I loved all the photo-type themes but didn’t think I had strong enough photos to post as my main page.

Overall, there’s work to be done. I dont think this portrays my work as I’d like it to.