New York City Neighborhood Challenge: Transforming Neighborhoods With Technology

The NYC Department of Small Business Services recently launched the fifth round of Neighborhood Challenge, a competition designed to invest in community-based development organizations who partner with technology companies to create and implement tools that address neighborhood scale issues and opportunities. Soofa was invited to participate and collaborate.  


Since 2012, the Neighborhood Challenge and its preceding competition, BID Challenge, have funded 27 projects from 240 proposals for a total of $1.7M invested in New York City Neighborhoods. Learn more about the Neighborhood Challenge background, goals, and vision for transforming communities in New York City and beyond >>

The importance of solving problems at the neighborhood scale through meaningful collaboration and deployment of new technology

In what intends to become a model for other communities and cities to replicate, the Neighborhood Challenge creates a unique platform where technologists and community builders can work together to improve the quality of life for citizens. The benefits of focusing on individual neighborhoods are far reaching, including being able to create solutions that closely meet the specific needs of local communities and, due to the naturally constrained scope of working in a neighborhood, can be easily measured to determine success and expansion potential quickly.


Making neighborhoods smarter to ultimately improve the quality of life and citizen experience is key

While the competition doesn't define exactly what a smart city solution is or can be, it does offer a basic criteria for what concepts will be favored and why. There is much to be learned from the criteria and basic guidelines, if for nothing else, to be able to use them as a baseline to compare other smart city or smart neighborhood initiatives being considered or executed in other cities across the country. The Neighborhood Challenge is primarily focused on exploring digital or data-driven technology solutions that meet use cases and solve problems including:

  • Leveraging technology to improve operational efficiency 
  • Coordinating the delivery of neighborhood services in a way that reduces overall cost
  • Strengthen direct stakeholder engagement 
  • Count people and use the data to tie back to important outcomes like revenue generation opportunities through programming and events as well as cost saving through smarter maintenance scheduling and selecting the most important capital improvement projects


Soofa technology will provide business improvement districts new ways to activate neighborhood spaces and sidewalks, measure pedestrian flow, and give local businesses a new platform on which to communicate with their community and visitors

Having multi-functional public infrastructure is a huge asset for business improvement districts in particular and cities in general. In an era where budgets are tight and competition to attract the next generation of city dwellers or the next innovative business is high, it is now more important for community builders to find ways to offer modern amenities that benefit the public which also provide a return on investment in the form of cost saving or revenue generating. 

By partnering with Soofa, community builders will be able to activate public spaces throughout their neighborhoods with beautifully designed infrastructure like the Soofa Bench and Soofa Core, offer free phone charging, and also measure pedestrian activity with Soofa Pro. The data gathered by Soofa Pro allows baseline activity levels to be observed; by having baseline data in a way that wasn't possible before, community builders will be able to measure the success of capital improvement projects, real estate development or leasing decisions, as well as temporary events and public space programming strategies. 

The Soofa Sign is also deployed as a communication platform for the business improvement districts to talk with and engage their communities, and for the local businesses who support the business improvement district to advertise to passerby in a way that is friendly, creative, and simple. 



Are you working on neighborhood innovation projects? Do you want a second opinion on your strategy or current thinking? Our team of smart city experts is here to help anytime.