Adams administration plans late 2022 launch of ‘MyCity’ portal for city services

Mayor Adams visits a small business (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

One of Mayor Eric Adams’ main criticisms of city government is that it is too inefficient, part of an endemic dysfunction that exacerbates inequality and stifles growth. There is far too much paperwork and redundancy between city agencies and the New Yorkers who turn to them for services, the new mayor says. And he pledged to make that access easier by launching an online portal that will allow people to apply for municipal benefits, services and permits at the touch of a button.

When he was running for mayor, Adams proposed creating a centralized portal, dubbed “MyCity,” that would allow New Yorkers to apply online for all kinds of city services. In the 2021 race, Adams’ campaign told the Gotham Gazette it was the centerpiece of the candidate’s signature “People’s Plan.” Once implemented, New Yorkers would enjoy benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps), housing assistance, and unemployment benefits, and even apply for business licenses, permits, etc.

In his State of the State address in April, as he outlined his vision for the city, Adams — a Democrat who took office Jan. 1 — said the first feature available on the portal would be a “unified application process for all subsidized children”. care options offered by the city.

“We know that working parents don’t have time to navigate a complex bureaucracy to get their kids taken care of, and we’re going to make sure the city government works for them,” he said in his statement. speech, right after the state approved massive new projects. funding and tax breaks to expand access to child care that Adams had advocated for.

The MyCity portal is currently being developed by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI), which Adams created in January to bring together the city’s various tech-related offices. According to an administration official who spoke on the merits, the bureau aims to launch the portal later this year, offering the childcare app.

OTI is creating the portal in-house, breaking away from the traditional government method of contracting out technology projects to private companies, which is a crucial step to ensuring its success, according to civic technologists. OTI officials have spent the past few months analyzing how child care enrollment is working in the city through the various agencies that provide it and are now surveying parents and guardians about how they apply for childcare benefits, to ensure a user-friendly portal. The bureau is also considering broader technology tools such as a digital wallet that would enable online transactions for users, according to the administration spokesperson.

New York City currently offers online access to direct cash benefits through the AccessHRA system operated by the Human Resources Administration. Eventually, this system should be integrated into the MyCity portal, the OTI official said.

“A one-stop-shop for municipal services is a civic tech dream,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of BetaNYC, a civic tech group. Hidalgo served on the mayor of Adams’ transition team into the technology group and was among those advising new administration officials on the creation of the MyCity portal.

Hidalgo acknowledged that the portal is a colossal undertaking. This requires the integration of various data systems that are not necessarily designed to work together. It will need secure login, unified payment and ticket tracking systems. And it should be easy to use.

The city has not always had a good track record with online portals. Just recently during the pandemic, the city’s immunization appointment system has been plagued with problems, with many New Yorkers turning to an outside program, TurboVax, created by independent software developer Huge Ma. Just last week, the city again ran into trouble arranging vaccination appointments for MonkeyPox, with city health commissioner Ashwin Vasan. pointing “technical difficulties” with an external supplier.

“There’s like a technical issue and then there’s a usability issue and that this administration will really have to understand,” Hidalgo said, “to make sure these tools will be used by everyday New Yorkers who speak multiple different languages ​​and that interface with government services from two different platforms.”

As the administration moves forward with MyCity, city council members are also continuing their online access efforts. Council Member Bob Holden, a Democrat from Queens, introduced legislation to create an open-source mobile app for people to access services, while Council Member Julie Menin, a Democrat from Manhattan, proposed a portal More focused One-Stop Shop NYC business overseen by the department. Small Business Services (SBS), to centralize applications, permits and licenses for small businesses.

Menin chairs the Small Business Committee and previously served as commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, as well as the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and director of the 2020 New York Census. She also owned a small business. “I really know firsthand that small businesses are struggling with onerous regulations and bureaucracy having to deal with an alphabet soup of city agencies,” she said, echoing the mayor’s criticism at the regard to the municipal government.

“I know firsthand how city agencies are often siloed and don’t really communicate with each other,” Menin added.

The mayor promised in his “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent” plan for the city’s economic recovery that the administration will launch a one-stop shopping portal that will allow businesses to interact with the city government in real time, their to track deposits, permits, inspections, etc. Menin’s bill could make it into law. “We greatly appreciate Council’s support for this effort and will work with you to ensure it is successful,” Calvin Brown, assistant commissioner of Neighborhood Development for SBS, said during a June 9 hearing on Menin’s Bill.

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