Lesson Plan – Beat Memo Part III:

Finding Data for your Community District (CD)

The NYC Neighborhood & Community District Research Guide will help you find any of the resources assigned. Review the NYC Resources by Topic Tab of this guide, which has detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to find every type of data on your beat memo.

PART III [FIND DATA ON YOUR CD, using your NYC Research Guide] IT IS IMPORTANT TO SOURCE EVERYTHING YOU FIND IN YOUR MEMOS. Name the resources and include a link. 

The first two parts of your CD Beat Memo, finding sources and clip searches, help with two main parts of a story, sources and context. A third component of stories and of your beat memo, is data, which helps you show your readers the scope of an issue using the data. Data over time can show a trend. 

The purpose of collecting this data for your beat memo is to give you a glimpse of the types of datasets available in a geographic beat (no matter where), and to help you find ideas for stories, once you master this data collection.  

For every story, ask yourself these questions: “what data will help me tell this story? where would the data be, on the NYC Open Data website, in a report? what agency or oversight body is responsible for this data? who else cares about this, what are the stakeholders in this issue who might have compiled data?

Here are some examples of articles that used data to tell the story. Discuss these in class:

Second Avenue Subway: escalators Fail to Rise (article links out to a memo to City Council of data)

Mayor Flunking on Pledge to Put A/C in Every Classroom (article links out to MTA Dashboard of data)

Which element(s) of a story does data help you convey? Answer: why is this story important?

Most governments, local, municipal, state, federal, international, have open datasets online.

Not all public data is accessible online, sometimes you have to ask for it in a freedom of information request, which in NYS is referred to as a FOIL request.

In-class exercises

Review and work on three of the hardest datasets to navigate in your CD Beat Memo. The instructor should go around the room to help students navigate.

A) NYC Open Data – check out the newest datasets, and datasets by Agency. NYC and most municipalities, states and the federal government make datasets publicly available. 

Follow the instructions below to navigate a search on NYC Open Data and complete this question on your Beat Memo. Use NYC Open Data 311 requests/complaints data to identify the top 5 requests/complaints in your CD/neighborhood so far for September 2019, by Descriptors, include total numbers of complaints in the categories you list. This might point to CD-specific story ideas or leads. List the results below. (20 points)

  • Search 311 in the search box;
  • Click on the dataset “311 Service Requests from 2010 to Present”;
  • Click on the “View Data” button;

  • Then click the “Visualize” button, then “Launch New Visualization”


  • Click on the “Dimension” dropdown and Scroll to add “Community Board.” You won’t choose your community board just yet.

  •  Click “+ Hierarchy” under Dimension.

  • Choose “Descriptor” from the pulldown menu.


  • On the top right, click on “Filters” then the “Add Filter” button. Then choose “Created Date” from the drop-down menu 


  • Populate the calendar year to date for the most recent year and “Apply”


  • Choose to view in bar chart format and click on the bar for your CB

  • If you hover over the bars, you can view the actual number of complaints by Descriptor


  • Change the “Created Date” to the previous year in the same time frame or back to 2010, which is the furthest back the data goes. Compare changes in complaint totals for different years to identify possible trends or issues to report on 


B) Follow the instructions below to get to the pertinent data to complete this question (you will have time to begin your analysis, then finish it outside of class)

Find what you believe to be the two most interesting CD facts gleaned from NYC Agency Performance Mapping Report 

  • Click on the globe icons to view data by indicator and by CD. 
  • List the data and whether it is up or down compared to last year? 
  • How does your CD compare with the city or borough regarding this data? Include agency sources. (10 points)
  • You may need to enhance your research using the citywide data in the Mayor’s Full Performance Report


C) Find the four largest employers in your neighborhood(s) or CD by number of employees. (10 points)

Ask students to think about how identifying the top employers in the neighborhood would inform their reporting.

Follow these instructions to get to the top five employers in your neighborhood using ReferenceUSA (ask your department’s library liaison if you have access to ReferenceUSA):

ReferenceUSA  – Search their US Businesses database [You can try this search on Hoovers or Mergent instead, depending on your available library resources].

  • choose “advanced search” tab
  • under geography, search by neighborhood (or zip code – add all of your CD zip codes)
  • click on the green “view results” button at the top right.
  • when results display, click on “corporate tree” pull down on the top right and choose employees, which will allow you to sort by number of employees

List a short description of what each company/institution/organization does [complete outside of class]. (10 points)

Outside of Class Assignment

Give students two weeks (outside of class) to complete the entire part III of the CD Beat Memo. 

REMINDER: the NYC Resources by Topic Guide has step-by-step instructions for finding answers to each question in the data portion of the CD Beat Memo.

D) What Census Bureau PUMA (Public Use Microdata Area) is most closely aligned with your CD? (2 points)

E) Racial/ethnic demographics of your CD. List percentages of these populations: Black, White, Asian, Hispanic or Latino (of any race). (10 points)

F) Immigrant groups in your CD. Use Social Explorer to find the top 10 countries from which your CD’s foreign-born population originates, include the number of people from each country. (10 points)

G) Major religions and religious institutions in your area: Find statistics for the major religions via ARDA or Social Explorer. (5 points) 

 H) Schools in your CD (public, private), list the top ten by capacity of each type. (10 points)

 I) Public Housing (any subsidized housing run by NYCHA – the New York City Housing Authority; e.g., the Walt Whitman Houses not far from Fulton Ferry in Brooklyn). (5 points)

 J) List the income distribution (household income) in your community district– tell us what percentage of the CD has what income. (5 points)

 K) Police Precincts in your CD (there are usually more than one): List pct #, telephone #, street address, community affairs officer’s name, and telephone. (5 points)

L) Crime statistics for your precinct. Since there is generally more than one precinct in a CD, for this answer we will accept the statistics for any one of your CD’s precincts. (5 points)

M) Zip codes in your CD. (3 points)