Tag Archive | "google"

Putting Little Yemen on The Map

At a small intersection with an under-developed park called Green Streets, no longer than the length of three tightly parked cars, lies the center of Little Yemen in Morris Park. Door-to-door services crowd the street in front, including Al-Meraj, a halal meat market, and Gamal Business Services, where Arabic-language employees provide tax, translation, and notary services.

The Green Steets intersection that Yahay Obeid hopes to rename “Little Yemen” park.

For Yahay Obeid, this is also the center of his dream.

Obeid, a control supervisor at JFK Airport, serves on Community Board 11 as the public committee safety chair and is the outreach liaison for his local mosque. His current mission is to establish the enclave’s identity as Little Yemen on Google Maps.

Obeid wants the official designation because it will encourage residents to feel a sense of belonging and pride in the Bronx, he said.

His goal is to give residents “a place where they can say, ‘Yeah, I’m waiting for you at the Little Yemen triangle.’”

The heart of the neighborhood is on White Plains Road and Rhinelander Avenue, where the most popular Yemeni restaurant, Arth Aljanatain, is located. The restaurant’s windowed walls offer a view of Green Streets, where passersby can see local Yemeni customers sitting on one of their eight tables. It’s where the coach of the Yemen United Soccer Club takes his his sons for dishes such as salta, a meat broth-based soup, and rice and chicken dishes. The main mosque of the area – that holds two Friday prayer services to accommodate the worshippers – is here too. Hookah cafes, a Yemeni supermarket, and Yemeni delis and pharmacies surround that one intersection.

Little Yemen, which encompasses pockets from Van Nest and Bronx Park East, is a small pocket of the approximate 120,000 residents in the area, according to the NYU Furman Center.

Local Islamic-wear boutique, across the street from the Bronx Muslim Center.

And it’s even a smaller fraction of the approximate 6,900 Yemenis in New York State, estimated by the Arab American Institute Foundation. The number of Yemenis residing in the Bronx and specifically in District 11 is unclear to community officials. 

Obeid got the idea to reach out to Google earlier this summer, when he took part in the planning of the city’s first-ever Yemeni-American Day Parade. Anwar Alomaisi, the parade’s volunteer photographer, took a drone photo that captured the crowd at the triangle intersection. Once Obeid saw it, he was inspired to try to create “Little Yemen.”

Obeid submitted his request to Google using its My Business mobile application. Google verified the location and a few weeks later, Little Yemen was on the map. Sort of. It appears on Google Maps as a museum open 24/7. All Google Maps users can also manually add suggestions for businesses, hospitals, streets, and other places, where it will go through a verification process, but they cannot add neighborhoods.

Screenshot of Little Yemen on Google Maps as of September 5, 2019.

“It might not be an official museum, but people will check it out,” Obeid said about the designation.

Separately, Obeid has made a request to the Department of Parks and Recreation to rename the park to “Little Yemen.” He will reach out to Google to change the museum designation if the park is renamed with a sponsorship from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

In the meanwhile, “it will be somewhat of an outdoor museum of the Yemeni community.”

Google retrieves neighborhood information from third-party providers and public sources that they describe as local government websites and transportation operators, according to a Google Spokesperson.

They define borders with a red outline to map boundaries. 

Establishing Little Yemen on the map would solidify the Arab presence in the area, said Jeremy Warneke, Community Board 11 District Manager.

“They’re very visible and present, and you can either embrace the future or do your best to deny it,” Warneke said.

Ethnic enclaves, or Littles, in New York City, are typically defined by “commercial, residential, and institutional concentration of a particular ethnic group,” said Tarry Hum, Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College, CUNY

She notes that neighborhoods develop out of  “reciprocity and ethnic solidarity, class relations (and conflict) [that are] tempered by shared culture, language, experience of racial discrimination.”

Many Littles in New York don’t appear on Google Maps. The New York Times mapped out several based on population concentrations. In the Bronx alone, there are at least six distinctive neighborhoods, including Little Ireland in Woodlawn Heights, Little Albania in Pelham Parkway, and Little Ghana in Concourse Village, which are just some of the 30 Littles the Bronx Ink identified throughout New York City.

Obeid considers his efforts “a gift to the Yemeni community.” 

“Now they see us out of the grocery stores.”

On October 3, 2019, a few weeks after this story went live, The Bronx Ink discovered that Little Yemen’s designation on Google Maps changed from museum to neighborhood. The new designation can be viewed by clicking this Google Maps link.

This story was updated to reflect the following correction: Yahay made the request to change the name of the park to the Department of Parks and Recreation, not the community board.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Culture, Featured, ImmigrationComments (2)

A new digital divide? Tech volunteers say support, not access, is the problem

Geraldine Miner watches as volunteer Cate Burlington workes on her laptop. Other volunteers sit behind them. (C.J. SINNER / The Bronx Ink)

Geraldine Miner frequently uses her laptop to navigate around Facebook, play games and keep up with her two children and three grandchildren, and always tries to keep the virus software updated. Still, the 69-year-old checked in for help at the Tech Day being held on a Saturday in mid-November in her west Bronx apartment building to find out why her laptop’s processing has slowed down so much.

The all-day Saturday Tech Day, run by iGotITtoo, a technology outreach nonprofit that volunteers in 10 underserved communities around the city, was the second such event held at River Watch, Inc., a nonprofit outreach organization housed at Riverview Apartments in Morris Heights. Neighbors came by the building and dropped off their computers of different ages and sizes, some heaving large desktop setups over their shoulders. The 11 volunteers were trained to fix many computer issues and they came armed with coffee.

Tables of monitors filled the room and a bin full of mismatched and used internal parts sat on the floor. Power cords twirled on the floor and miniature tools were arranged by color and size in case an ambitious volunteer wished to take the screws off a device. Volunteers and iGotITtoo employees donned T-shirts that read “Smart is the new gangsta” on the back.

The group is responding to somewhat of a new digital divide, said iGotITtoo cofounder Santana Kenner. Low-income communities have more Internet access than ever because of lower prices for small laptops and smartphones. What they lack is affordable access to technical help and it often costs hundreds of dollars to diagnose and repair the machines.

“Normally, access is the issue people talk about, but that has changed. Now, it’s digital inequality – that’s the usage, the fluency,” Kenner said, adding that it’s common for users across the board to unwittingly trust every file download or game. Corrupted material often leads to problems. “We’re out that the underserved communities just don’t have the resources to get things fixed.”

Nationally, studies have shown that the digital divide, typically identified between ethnic groups, has been gradually narrowing since 2000, and a July report from the Pew Research Center showed that more blacks than whites owned smartphones. Morris Heights sits in Community District 5, which is almost entirely black and Hispanic, according to the city planning department’s latest data.

“People know that they should have access and they can get the access, but then sometimes they’re not sure what to do with it,” said Clare Chiesa, the other iGotITtoo cofounder.

Chiesa and Kenner started iGotITtoo in Lafayette Gardens in Brooklyn in 2007 because they were looking for a way to offer computer literacy classes to underserved communities and narrow the digital divide of access. In 2009, the group, whose name is a play on words for the abbreviation for information technology, received a $250,000 grant from Google to expand their reach. They now serve three locations in the Bronx as well as their original Brooklyn centers.

Chiesa said that at the first River Watch Tech Day in August, eight technicians fixed 25 computers in 10 hours. This time around, only 12 people brought their computers by, even though Chiesa said she expected growth.

Head volunteer Ilya Feldshteyn said he didn’t think the event was advertised well enough this time. Most of the flyers were only posted around the building or handed out around the neighborhood on the morning of the event.

Miner, who knew about the event because she sits on the board for River Watch and has taken computer education classes through iGotITtoo, has a laptop for herself and an older desktop computer that she lets her grandson use.

“He downloads all sorts of stuff, I don’t even know what’s on there,” she said. “But I don’t let anyone on my laptop, so I have no idea why it’s slow.”

Ilya Feldshteyn, left, shows what to look for on a computer. (C.J. SINNER / The Bronx Ink)

Free downloads and games are often the culprit, said Feldshteyn. Two-thirds of the issues he handles result from spyware and viruses. In fact, running a virus scan is the first step each technician takes when a computer is brought in.

“It takes a lot of time to fix, and we tell them not to do it, but it’s hard to change behavior,” Feldshteyn said. “We explain it to them, you know, please refrain from the free software and the free music, but they don’t listen very often.”

So the 28-year-old JP Morgan employee and other tech volunteers hunker down in rows of computers, running scans or digging for troublesome programs.

Afterward, Miner, who only brought in her slow personal laptop for repairs, said her laptop was working well, though she wasn’t sure what the technicians did to resolve the problem or how to prevent it from happening again.

“They just cleaned it out, I guess, and they took out whatever was making it slow,” she said. “They just told me to be careful about which websites I go to and downloading things.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Culture, Northwest BronxComments (0)