Category Archives: Beat Reporting

My Neighborhood Statistics from

my_statsHow clean are the streets in your beat neighborhood?  How many water main breaks were reported in FY08?  What is the average response time to all critical crimes in progress in your beat?  How many 311 calls have come in to complain about illegal parking???  Answer these questions and many more with My Neighborhood Statistics, an interactive tool from the Mayor’s Office of Operations for NYC neighborhood statistics. The data is searchable by street address or intersection.

Branch Out Using NYC’s Branch Libraries

An indispensable part of getting to know your beat neighborhood is exploring its public library branch. Public libraries across the U.S. draw local residents for events and group meetings, and in New York, branch libraries of the New York Public Library system (serving Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island), as well as branches of the Queens Library and Brooklyn Public Library, often have collections which highlight the unique characteristics of the neighborhoods they serve. If you’re having trouble finding neighborhood newspapers, the local branch library is a good place to start your search.

Before setting out, use the links above to locate your beat’s branch library and most importantly, check its hours of operation! To explore the branch library catalogs, here are some useful links:

The Catalog at NYPL, formerly two separate catalogs – LEO and CATNYP, is now integrated, providing the convenience of a single searchable database for both circulating and non-circulating collections.  Take a virtual tour of the new NYPL catalog, and don’t forget to obtain a library card for checking out materials from the branch libraries. Apply for one today while you are living in New York City!  The NYPL also offers you access to online research databases which you’ll be able to use after graduating, when you no longer have access to Columbia’s resources.

Community Districts and District Managers and City Planning and…

Perhaps you have already been assigned a beat neighborhood, or a community district to cover, and are not sure exactly what a community district is, or where your beat is located? Here are some ways to start discovering your new beat.

Scoping Out Your Beat is a guide with links to some crucial resources, including the Department of City Planning website (which includes Community District Profiles), and the Gotham Gazette’s Community Gazettes section (note that Gotham Gazette uses council district, rather than community district, to organize its site.

Your professor may have mentioned some books available in the Journalism Library, called Community District Needs. These books are published annually by the Department of City Planning, and there is one volume per borough.  Columbia University Libraries has multiple copies on campus, including the most recent in the Journalism Library reference collection.

Please note that the community district profiles posted on the Department of City Planning website include almost all of the information in the books. What’s missing from the website? The detailed memo from each community board, which spells out what each district needs from the City in terms of improvements and funding. So, if you are going to take a look at the Community District Needs books at the library, no need to photocopy the entire section. Just photocopy the memo, and you can get the rest online!

Beat Reporting in NYC at Lunch Time!

Hitting the streets of your beat for the first time?  Make sure to head out there hungry – both for a great story and a great meal.  Some of NYC’s best food never makes it into Zagat’s, so an essential website for learning about your neighborhood’s cuisine is Chowhound.  Covering an area in Manhattan?  Search the Manhattan board for food in all areas of New York City.  Covering a beat that’s farther afield?  Try the Outer Boroughs board.  In addition, check out MenuPages, and find a restaurant by neighborhood, cuisine, or use the “Find-a-Food” search to locate restaurants that serve your favorite things!  Bagels, dim sum, falafel, ciz biz kofte, guacamole…

Remember that resources like Chowhound and MenuPages thrive on user input, so once you’ve sampled the cuisine your beat has to offer, weigh in with your own comments!

Community Health Profiles, 2006

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (surely the most excellent name for a health department in all of the U.S.) has just released its 2006 Community Health Profiles. These profiles cover neighborhoods in all 5 boroughs, and also include special reports and maps on topics such as binge drinking, diabetes, and domestic violence. You can search the profiles by zip code, or browse by borough or district. [Thanks to J-schooler Tania Haas for pointing out the update.]