City Site Serves Up Answers By Neighborhood

If you are new to Front Street or suddenly came down with election-fatigue triggered amnesia and forget which day and which time the trash is collected ... or if you see a downed wire and want to know whom to call ... you can now get a quick electronic answer courtesy of City Hall.

The city has added a new feature to its website: resident guides chock full with specialized info for 11 neighborhoods spanning our fair burg.

Officials unveiled the new feature at a brief news conference Monday in the community room of the Fair Haven Branch Library.

You can find it at Click on the residents tab, and then on the first menu, the residents’ guides, beneath it.

When you click on your neighborhood, some ten to 15 pages then electronically unfold before you depending on the neighborhoods.

Mayoral spokeswoman Anna Mariotti and Deputy Chief of Staff Rebecca Bombero guided Yale senior and presidential intern Caroline Smith to create a new location because the city website is so dense that people looking for a specific in their neighborhood have to do a lot of tabbing before they get there.

Thanks to Smith (pictured), a Yale senior and presidential fellow deployed to Mariotti’s office, the guides on line now basically answer two questions: “What do I need to know?” And “What makes my neighborhood special?”

To that end, if you go to any one of the neighborhood guides you find, roughly in this order:

• People to know, such as your alderman and his or her contact info; district manager/LCI official/management team.
• Frequently asked ... and answered questions about matters like that fallen wire number, street sweeps, fire and police contacts, emergency pantry/shelter.
• How to get involved, like block watch contact info, management team info.
• Then two to four pages with your particular neighborhood’s unique features and resources, like its community gardens, farmers’ markets, the not-for-profits active in your area, with dates, times, names, numbers.
• Maybe a page on a main feature of your neighborhood, like the Green or Gateway Community College if you’re downtown.
• Finally, a concluding page with the collected phone numbers handily presented from the previous pages.

“We’re very excited about the neighborhood guides,” said Lee Cruz, one of the founders of the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association, whose group also helped design and review the city guides.

“We were thinking of doing it for our neighborhood, and here the city has done it,” he added.

Mayor John DeStefano, who attended the news conference, said that while the city’s site “has a lot of stuff going on. If you go to the site, it tends to be in silos not by neighborhood but city agency.”

There are drawbacks: The guides can’t yet function as local online calendars for the neighborhoods because they are PDFs. Nor are they set up to take advertising, a suggestion made by local businessman and Ward 8 aldermanic candidate Andy Ross, who also attended the press conference.

DeStefano said that “creating some open content pages” in the manner of SeeClickFix as well as offering a kind of neighborhood calendar were both “good ideas.”

Whether the city will push this electronic initiative in those or other directions depends on staff power to maintain and enhance the feature.

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posted by: Scot on November 5, 2013  10:56am

This is really awesome, looks great.  Is there a place to make suggestions for things to be added?

For ex/ I don’t see any of the city’s museums listed (NH Museum, Peabody, Eli Whitney, etc). Or the YMCA, Boys & Girls club, Ralph Walker Skate rink, public swimming pools, etc.

posted by: Kevin on November 5, 2013  12:14pm

Caroline did a great job. But, as Allan suggests in his last line, the site will need to be maintained to be useful. For example, the East Rock Management Team moved from Hooker School to East Rock School after Caroline collected her information.