Endorsed: The CrowdLaw Manifesto

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With a clear awareness of the need and role for public participation at the most local level of governance, The CrowdLaw Manifesto’s 12 principles promote the use of CrowdLaw (see principle 2 below) by all. They call for legislatures, technologists and the public to participate in creating more open and participatory lawmaking practices. Seeing broad agreement, and immediate application for the principles in our JacksonHeights.nyc Initiative, we endorse them.

The 12 principles:

  1. To improve public trust in democratic institutions, we must improve how we govern in the 21st century.
  2. CrowdLaw is any law, policy-making or public decision-making that offers a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in one or multiples stages of decision-making, including but not limited to the processes of problem identification, solution identification, proposal drafting, ratification, implementation or evaluation.
  3. CrowdLaw draws on innovative processes and technologies and encompasses diverse forms of engagement among elected representatives, public officials, and those they represent.
  4. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help governing institutions obtain more relevant facts and knowledge as well as more diverse perspectives, opinions and ideas to inform governing at each stage and may help the public exercise political will.
  5. When designed well, CrowdLaw may help democratic institutions build trust and the public to play a more active role in their communities and strengthen both active citizenship and democratic culture.
  6. When designed well, CrowdLaw may enable engagement that is thoughtful, inclusive, informed but also efficient, manageable and sustainable.
  7. Therefore, governing institutions at every level should experiment and iterate with CrowdLaw initiatives in order to create formal processes for diverse members of society to participate in order to improve the legitimacy of decision-making, strengthen public trust and produce better outcomes.
  8. Governing institutions at every level should encourage research and learning about CrowdLaw and its impact on individuals, on institutions and on society.
  9. The public also has a responsibility to improve our democracy by demanding and creating opportunities to engage and then actively contributing expertise, experience, data and opinions.
  10. Technologists should work collaboratively across disciplines to develop, evaluate and iterate varied, ethical and secure CrowdLaw platforms and tools, keeping in mind that different participation mechanisms will achieve different goals.
  11. Governing institutions at every level should encourage collaboration across organizations and sectors to test what works and share good practices.
  12. Governing institutions at every level should create the legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to promote CrowdLaw and better forms of public engagement and usher in a new era of more open, participatory and effective governing.

Tom Lowenhaupt, Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.

For more on the Manifesto see http://manifesto.crowd.law/.


Tabling At Travers Park

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September 2017 – We’ve been neglecting this Connecting.nyc site, putting virtually all our attention into the JacksonHeights.nyc Initiative. To catch you up a bit, here’s an email Tom sent last month updating our neighbors on progress with JacksonHeights.nyc.

The Editor

 *       *       *       *


Next Sunday (August 13) the Jackson Heights Wiki will be hosting an outreach table at Travers Park during the Greenmarket. Tell us your thoughts about what we’ve done and what you’d like to see.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Jackson Heights Wiki, it is a Wikipedia specifically for the Jackson Heights neighborhood. It has over 200 pages which includes information about popular places in the neighborhood such as Restaurants and Parks and even Bathroom Facilities, as well as historical information about Jackson Heights.

But don’t let that number fool you, many of the pages in the Jackson Heights Wiki are incomplete (aka Stubs) and we need YOUR help and knowledge in completing those pages.

For comparison the Davis Wiki, which represents the town of Davis in California has over 16,000 pages, so the Jackson Heights Wiki has a long way to go and we need YOUR help in doing so.

Resource-wise, we’ve had a good summer.

  • We have a full-time summer intern from the city-funded Ladders For Leaders program, Syed Rahman.  A recent graduate from the High School of Technology in Long island City, Syed will be heading to Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship in a few weeks. He’s doing fantastic work.

  • And we received a $1,000 donation from a local veterans organization. (Hints on how to spend it are welcomed.)

While it’s helpful and fun adding to the information layer represented by the wiki, adding our next layer – decision-making and organizing – is the possible mold breaker.

Forty years ago I got an early peak at the potential of advanced connectivity – what we call today the Internet – and concluded that it would lead to a vast realignment in the operation of our governance systems. With their having been developed for a horse and buggy era, how could it not?

But to date, nothing much has changed in this foundational area. We hope to have something operating in late winter in the decision-making and organizing realm that sheds light on whether a neighborhood is a workable civic entity in our increasingly digital era.

Finally, putting on my panglossian hat and anticipating success, it’s time we get more formal with the governance of the Jackson Heights Initiative, with a first meeting on that topic to happen in September. Let me know if you’d like an invite and help steer the Initiative.

For now, SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW on the wiki.


Tom Lowenhaupt, Overseer Pro Tem


Announcing The Jackson Heights Wiki

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The following letter inviting residents of Jackson Heights to share their knowledge of the neighborhood on the Jackson heights wiki was sent today.

May 23, 2017

Fellow Jackson Heights Residents,

This is a somewhat long message, so I’m going to summarize it here for those who’ve been awaiting this email and know what to do: wiki.JacksonHeights.nyc is now ready and waiting for you to share what you know about the neighborhood. (For reasons explained below, the Home page is not editable, all others are.)

The Somewhat Long Message.

The Jackson Heights wiki exists. It’s in the earliest of days – in biblical terms, a tad past separating the light from the dark. So far there’s not a whole lot to see, maybe 50 pages or so, some of which are stubs – starter pages needing polish and additional detail  before they possess real meaning. To give a feel for what’s there now, I’ll describe two existing pages.

  • Holmes Airport – I’ve lived in JH for 38 years and had never heard of Holmes Airport until I did a Wikipedia search for Jackson Heights. I learned that Holmes took up almost a quarter of the neighborhood from 1929 to 1940, when LaGuardia Airport opened and ran it out of business. Beyond the page’s raw information, take a look at the Questions, Resources & Possibilities section where several article additions and an Augmented Reality project are described. The page is an example of how our past can be fodder for our future, or put another way, how to build a mountain out of a molehill. (Is your home on the same spot where Amelia Earhart christened the Goodyear blimp Resolute at Holmes in 1932 ?)

  • The wiki’s Home Page is here. As noted above, this is the only page that can not be edited by the general public. The existence of this solitary “no changes” page provides an opportunity to bring up the need for a formal governance process. For the wiki (I’ll talk about the JacksonHeights.nyc website below), we’re starting out using similar editorial policies and processes to those used on Wikipedia. But because its a neighborhood wiki and not an encyclopedia, we’re going to need to make some changes. There are a lot of sensitive questions about “appropriate content” that need to be answered. Our governance page looks at that and how we make decisions about the wiki policies.

Why The Wiki?

We began our effort with the belief that Jackson Heights is built upon the shoulders of those who preceded us. And we see the wiki as an information archive of where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, and what’s here now. As well, a neighborhood wiki should detail resources and stories on how things got and get done.

We hope to get all meaningful neighborhood information together in one place and arrange for permanent availability. And there’s no realistic way to do that other than through a massive neighborhood-wide collaboration using wiki software.

Wikipedia’s managed to get over 5 million pages in the English language encyclopedia. How many contributors do we need to capture the detail of our neighborhood is unknown. But there are 100,000 residents here to help with the task – plus former residents, visitors, and well wishers – and our wiki software is a most powerful tool.

What can you do today? Here are some suggestions, some easy some difficult.

  • Start a page for an organization you belong to, or improve an existing page about it. Got a memory about a store you loved that is no longer with us (Caffe Greco!), start a page. Write about your building and perhaps some famous past residents (but before writing about current residents, we need to have a conversation about privacy – see the Governance and Appropriate content pages). I recall hearing that former Assembly member Ivan Lafayette had a proposal for an improved local transportation system – if you know anything about it, create a wiki page for it. Are you Cuban, Thai, Indian, or Nepalese? Create a page about your culture’s arrival and impact on Jackson Heights.

  • Simpler is to copy and past a page from Wikipedia. There are lots. Take a look at the Fifth Avenue Bus Company page. This page was clipped from Wikipedia and posted as a new page on our wiki. It needs to be reorganized and refocused about its role here. Eventually the page might have local photos and remembrances of its impact on JH. It will be a slow build process. Every wiki page is a collaboration that will change over time. For now, just get something started.

  • Fixing up existing pages is also quite worthwhile (that’s what most Wikipedians (Wikipedia editors) do. Correct spelling, choose a better word, find a reference, update, reorganize, these are all necessary and worthwhile tasks.

  • If you’re ambitious, follow up on a theme. For example, I started with a copy and paste from Wikipedia of Travers Park. Next I created a page for Thomas Travers from that page and a bit of googling. Next I added pages for Rory Staunton Field and the Staunton Foundation. Added links to other parks, and have stopped “parking” for now.

  • If you’re not interested in pagemaking, perhaps the policy area is of interest. Take a look at the Governance process and Appropriate content pages. These require a good deal of help. They are key to the wiki’s success. If we get these areas right, there’s a good likelihood we’ll succeed.

  • Finally, if you’ve got an idea or a gripe, I’m reachable via the below.

  • Final, final. If none of this appeals to you, forward this to a friend who might be interested.

The Future

The wiki is part of the Jackson Heights Initiative. It was begun by Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit that emerged from a resolution passed from our local community board in 2001. Connecting.nyc applied for and received the city’s license to operate the JacksonHeights.nyc domain. Our goal is to get the wiki and related digital resources in operation, (e.g., the JacksonHeights.nyc website), and transition control to a locally controlled nonprofit within the next couple of years.

The JacksonHeights.nyc website is not ready for viewing yet, remaining in the unimproved state we received it in from the city. Our next message will focus on plans for it. Until then, share your knowledge on the wiki.


Tom Lowenhaupt


Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.

Interim Director, JacksonHeights.nyc

[email protected]


Jackson Hts., NYC



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stoptheauctionsJackson Hts., New York, October 5, 2016 –  There were highs and lows in city hall’s rollout of the .nyc TLD last month. Early on we were cheered when we received notification that our application for the JacksonHeights.nyc domain name had been approved. And with the de Blasio Administration committed to putting the city’s 350+ neighborhood domain names under the control of local residents, we began to imagine that our decade-old vision of an “intuitive” city Internet might materialize; where one would find informative presentations of our city’s art galleries at artgalleries.nyc, find banks at banks.nyc, and locate a church at churches.nyc. And with each such directory a bonus would arrive: the opportunity for a New Yorker to form a new small business.

But our confidence plummeted when the city’s contractor announced that a high-bid auction was to be held on October 24 for 20 domain names:

  • Apartments.nyc
  • Construction.nyc
  • Kitchen.nyc
  • Renovation.nyc
  • Brokers.nyc
  • Furniture.nyc
  • Lease.nyc
  • Roommates.nyc
  • Brownstones.nyc
  • Garden.nyc
  • Living.nyc
  • Rentals.nyc
  • Condos.nyc
  • Homes.nyc
  • Lofts.nyc
  • Studios.nyc
  • CoOps.nyc
  • Interiors.nyc
  • RealEstate.nyc
  • Sublet.nyc

These are the first of what might ultimately be 3,000 auctioned names, many of which are vital to the realization of that intuitive city and the utility of the TLD.

The basis of our disappointment is epitomized by the hotels.nyc domain name. It’s reasonable to assume that, in a high-bid auction, an entity such as the Hilton Corporation, with deep pockets and 30 hotels in or near the city, will win. When this occurs two associated outcomes can be predicted with reasonable certainty: a traveler looking to hotels.nyc for a city hotel would assuredly be provided with a highly skewed view of the city’s 250+ hotels (a Hilton perhaps?). And a comprehensive listing of hotels, perhaps creatively mixed to include an AirBnB-like listing, fashioned by a local entrepreneur will never materialize.

With our being awarded the license for JacksonHeights.nyc, we have a big stake in this development: If people come to believe that hotels.nyc and other such civic infrastructure names are in essence offering “biased directories,” what hope is there that they will come to trust that JacksonHeights.nyc presents the considered and collaborative intelligence of its neighborhood namesake?

To summarize, the city has established a workable model to guide the allocation of the neighborhood names, requiring detailed public interest commitments (PICs) from those interested in the rights to their development. Further, those awarded neighborhood name must return every three years to demonstrate they’ve met their PICs. In contrast, the plan for auctioning hundreds, perhaps thousands of these civicly important names does not require any PICs from the auction winners. And there’s no review process whatsoever, with the names issued virtually forever.


If the city sticks with the high-bid auction (a holdover from the Bloomberg Administration), several negatives will result.

  • Our opportunity to establish .nyc as a managed and trusted TLD, a safe port if you will, will be severely diminished.
  • We’ll loose the opportunity to provide access to these new resources to capital starved entities. The local flavor and creativity will suffer.
  • We’ll loose an opportunity to bolster our digital self reliance. We’ll remain dependent on distant search engines to filter and present our digital resources.

The city should stop the auctions and follow these steps to improve the name allocation process.

  • City Hall should establish a public policy that facilitates the identification and development of civicly valuable domain names.
  • Considering the economic and aggregation benefits that arise with a well managed and trusted digital resource, it should categorize the 3,000 names: those that can be auctioned immediately, names for negotiated allocation (like the neighborhood names), and names that have PICs and are destined for high-bid auction. (Here’s a start.)
  • The city’s Department of Small Business Services should do outreach to small and minority businesses and empower them to participate in these auctions by sponsoring hackathons, networking events, loans, credits…

The city should begin governing the .nyc TLD as a common that belongs to all New Yorkers. While Mayor de Blasio has taken some commendable steps, e.g., the neighborhood names and a nexus policy that restricts ownership to New Yorkers, success requires an investment. The city should immediately re-establish its .NYC Community Advisory Board and enable meaningful public engagement in the auctions, and deal with issues such as abandoned names, idle names, WHOIS, rates, and consumer protections.

Longer term, the city charter needs to be revised to reflect the Internet’s existence.

Thomas Lowenhaupt is the founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit education organization advancing the operation of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. His 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution sparked the city’s acquisition of the .nyc TLD. Two years ago the Internet Society of New York and Connecting.nyc sponsored a panel on the allocation of these “premium” domain names. See a report on that meeting here.


JacksonHeights.nyc – The Application

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Jackson Heights map for .nyc application 1aAugust 19, 2016 – Connecting.nyc Inc. today announced that it had submitted its application to the city of New York for the license to develop the JacksonHeights.nyc domain name. Accompanying the application were over 30 affidavits of support from neighborhood businesses, civic organizations, and residents. The application may be viewed here.

The application and affidavits were the result of a weeks long outreach effort aimed at informing neighborhood residents about the organization’s Jackson Heights Project and incorporating their ideas in the application.

In submitting its application Connecting.nyc explained its decision to support the project:

After extensive contact with residents and organizations of our neighborhood and careful consideration of our capabilities, we have concluded that developing a neighborhood domain name provides us with a spectacular opportunity to advance our education mission and improve the quality of life here in Jackson Heights.

Tom Lowenhaupt, founder of Connecting.nyc Inc., noted that while the comment period for the application has ended, the design for JacksonHeights.nyc will be an ongoing, open, and transparent process to which all neighborhood residents were welcome.

NOTE: Our application was approved and we’ve acquired the right to develop the JacksonHeights.nyc domain. We will hold public meetings on the development process beginning in January 2017, expecting to transition to active use in mid-2017 (The current info on the site is placeholder info entered by the city and does not reflect our plans.) Should you have questions, ideas, or an interest in engaging with the endeavor, contact [email protected]

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