Promised Data-Driven Infrastructure On Hold at Hudson Yards

When the Manhattan megadevelopment got its start, big data was a major part of Hudson Yards' marketing pitch. Now it's "probably the last thing we'll get to."

February 24, 2019, 9:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Tom Wurl / Shutterstock

"New York's Hudson Yards was once billed as the country's first 'quantified community,'" Emily Nonko writes. "So where is the NASA-like mission control? Data collection and advanced infrastructure will still drive parts of Hudson Yards' operations, but not (yet) as first advertised."

In a pitch that segued with then-mayor Michael Bloomberg's luxe, tech-friendly vision for the city, Hudson Yards was supposed to be "a test bed for a network of sensors meant to provide constant updates to [developers] Related and Oxford. In a city known for grueling walk-ups and miserable subway commutes, data—it was promised—would make 'live, work, and play' (as the marketing lingo goes) easy and adaptable."

But in the intervening years, those developers "have been occupied with the not-so-insignificant task of building a neighborhood." Meanwhile, many of those smart city ambitions have been put on hold. "We concluded that big data is probably the last thing we'll get to. It'll be years from now before we're in that world," said Related Hudson Yards president Jay Cross.

Certain easy-to-implement smart systems are in place at Hudson Yards, including an app serving tenants, touch-screen kiosks for visitors, and fingerprint sensors for office workers. But even so, Nonko asks, "If Hudson Yards—with a seemingly infinite budget and a blank slate—couldn't build it, who can?" And as data collection stirs controversy at other smart city hotspots like Sidewalk Labs' Quayside, does that vision even reflect what people want?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 in Metropolis Magazine

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