During superstorm Sandy New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his communications team used Twitter and other social media tools to get the word out about the storm, school closings, power outages and assistance. Soon, though, the mayor and New York will start to use an additional tool to inform New Yorkers. New York has partnered with Nextdoor, a social network dedicated to making it easier for neighbors to communicate.
"There's a very clear signal that people across the U.S. want to bring back a strong feeling to the neighborhood," Nirav Tolia, the CEO and founder of Nextdoor, told ABC News. "Mayor Bloomberg is embracing Nextdoor for its services. It is a comprehensive partnership with all the city services." Bloomberg will visit Nextdoor's headquarters in San Francisco today to announce the partnership.
The neighborhood social network requires users to sign up according to their neighborhood and to specify where they live. New York City users will pick from more than 1,800 different neighborhood options. Users are required to put in their real name and their street address, but New Yorkers will not have to put in their building or apartment number. The social network isn't indexed on Google, and each neighboorhood is only visible to those who are verified members and have been confirmed to be part of that neighborhood.
Once you've got an account in New York City, you will start to see updates from the city's NYCgov channel. But that's just the start of the integration with the city services. Tolia said that other departments and services serving the city, including the New York Police Department and utility companies, are on the roadmap for partnerships. "We will work closely with the chief digital officer of NYC to first pilot a series of things in a few neighborhoods and see how residents respond to them. We never do big bang releases. We want them to be organic," Tolia said in explaining the roll out.
More than 14,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. have started to use the social network, and 120 of those neighborhoods have partnered with their local police departments and the city governments to reinvent the notion of neighborhood watch. Many users are alerting one another about crimes or security issues, and in turn police departments use the alerts to get information from users to issue warnings.
In Dallas, the company says 369 neighborhoods are using Nextdoor, the police have trained 300 neighbor police officers and have mapped local police stations to the Nextdoor communities. The departments even post surveillance videos.
In New York, Tolia believes the service will enhance communication during major events and severe storms.
"A big theme of Bloomberg's administration is the theme of resilience," Tolia said. "What we have seen already is when there were tornadoes in Oklahoma, the communities there were using Nextdoor to get the word out. When the bombings happened in Boston, they were getting the word out on Nextdoor. This is just enhancing that with official communication from the city."
The city of New York plans to post information about Nextdoor on its website. New Yorkers can now sign up for the service at nextdoor.com/nyc.