BigApps 2015

NYC BigApps

The NYC BigApps competition awarded over $200,000 to innovative civic tech startups and piloted new models for collaboration between tech and the public sector.

In 2014, the New York City Economic Development Corporation selected HR&A as program administrator of NYC BigApps, a trendsetting civic tech competition that has helped launched more than 500 apps and devices. HR&A has led all aspects of program design and management for BigApps 2014 and 2015, developing two interactive web platforms; producing more than 25 events; securing more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorships; managing partnerships with more than 100 organizations; and overseeing the selection processes that awarded $230,000 to 16 high-impact tech products.

HR&A led a major redesign of BigApps in 2014, the competition’s fifth year. To facilitate more targeted submissions, HR&A partnered with New York City agencies and nonprofit organizations to craft more than 30 “BigIdea Challenges” that awarded extra prizes for specific solutions. To engage the public, HR&A produced 11 events, including the BigApps Block Party, a day-long tech showcase that attracted more than 1,000 attendees. The competition received 117 submissions, the most of any competition year. Among the 2014 winners was Heat Seek NYC, which uses low-cost sensor technology to track heating violations in apartment buildings. Since winning $25,000 in prizes, Heat Seek has been accepted into two prominent incubator programs, introduced an improved sensor and software platform, and launched a winter 2015 pilot program that deployed 120 sensors across 40 low-income buildings throughout New York City.


For BigApps 2015, HR&A again recruited more than 30 City agencies, civic organizations, and private sector firms, but this time focused on four high-impact Challenges: Affordable Housing, Zero Waste, Connected Cities, and Civic Engagement. These Challenges were designed to support Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City. Over a four-month period, partners co-created products with teams and committed to supporting the implementation of winning products. In December, BigApps awarded $125,000 to seven impactful civic tech products, including Benefit Kitchen, a mobile app that helps low-income New Yorkers access public benefits;, a web platform that empowers tenants to improve their living conditions; and Addicaid, a digital support network designed for individuals struggling with substance abuse. In addition to prizes, teams won four months of Incubation at Civic Hall, including access to meeting and work space, targeted workshops, access to professional networks, and expert guidance on business planning, marketing, funding strategies, and product development.


Read more about BigApps at NYC .gov,, AM New York, and Crain’s NY Business.

100 Resilient Cities Logo

100 Resilient Cities Challenge

HR&A is supporting urban leaders in 100 cities across the United States as they develop comprehensive, actionable plans to become more resilient to social, economic, and physical risks and challenges.

HR&A supports the 100 Resilient Cities program, a global initiative pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, and Chief Resilience Officers across the United States as they develop comprehensive resilience strategies and implementation plans that respond to their cities’ unique set of risks and long-term vision and goals. Each strategy and implementation plan is designed to build the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to not only survive a major disruption event such as an earthquake or flood, but also to adapt and grow in the face of chronic stresses such as poverty or housing availability.

HR&A works with each Chief Resilience Officer and other senior officials to develop comprehensive resilience strategies.

At the forefront of Resilience Strategy Development, HR&A has supported the comprehensive strategic plans for Norfolk, New York City and New Orleans – the first to be delivered as a part of the 100RC program.  In Norfolk, HR&A worked with the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) to design initiatives that will make the coastal city more prepared for climate change, create economic opportunity in new and growing sectors, and strengthen communities and neighborhoods while deconcentrating poverty. New York City’s strategy, developed with support from HR&A, envisions a more resilient city embracing balanced growth, a more inclusive economy, sustainability in the face of climate change, and more resilient infrastructure and services. In New Orleans, HR&A supported the CRO in prioritizing initiatives advancing coastal protection and restoration, creating equity through opportunity, and redesigning regional transit systems. Future strategies may include the development of high priority implementable projects and initiatives that strengthen infrastructure, generate economic opportunity, improve governance structures, and build social capital.


Through the Resilience Strategy Development process, HR&A supports cities and CROs to:

  • Identify and prioritize potential acute shocks and chronic stresses that their cities face;
  • Provide thought leadership by guiding use of best practices and delivering data-driven analyses;
  • Coordinate and facilitate stakeholder workshops; and
  • Design a Phase-1 Resilience Strategy


HR&A led agenda-setting workshops for six of the ten selected North American cities: Los Angeles, California; Norfolk, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; Boulder, Colorado; Tulsa, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri; and El Paso, Texas. Prior to each workshop, HR&A analyzed the city context, including demographic, economic, social, and physical metrics, to define a city-specific strategic plan. Learn more about the program at

Take the H.E.L.M Competition

HR&A designed a high-profile business competition, which attracted 25 new companies to Lower Manhattan’s growing innovation district.

Lower Manhattan has long been the world’s financial capital. But, as the financial sector evolves, creative and tech companies are playing an increasingly vital role in the diversification of city’s economy, bringing new energy to a neighborhood still rebuilding from 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. In 2012 and 2013, HR&A partnered with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to accelerate Lower Manhattan’s transformation by designing and administering Take the H.E.L.M. – Hire + Expand in Lower Manhattan, a competition that awards prizes to catalytic new office tenants in the neighborhood, including startups and companies seeking their first office in New York.

Working with NYCEDC, HR&A designed and administered Take the H.E.L.M. HR&A’s responsibilities included:


Design of competition guidelines and evaluation criteria to ensure that companies receiving prizes brought net new jobs to Lower Manhattan in innovative tech and creative industries.

Management and delivery of a website that served as a resource to prospective Lower Manhattan tenants media, and portal for competition entries.

Marketing to prospective applicants using traditional media, social media, and through direct marketing at tech meet-ups, conferences, and other events. The Take the H.E.L.M. website received over 20,000 unique visitors from companies based around the world, attracted nearly 1,400 registrants, and led to several high-profile media articles.

Design and management of a rigorous selection process that included a high-profile panel of judges – led by former Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission Arthur Levitt – with deep experience in venture capital, economic development, and finance.


Over two competition rounds, Take the H.E.L.M. received over 600 applications and awarded $2.25 million in prizes. The competition generated significant promotion for the City and neighborhood, including coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Crain’s New York Business, and Fox Business News.


Take the H.E.L.M. is widely credited with opening the door for tenants that otherwise would not have considered locating in Lower Manhattan. As 2015, 25 H.E.L.M. applicants have signed leases in Lower Manhattan, including Paperless Post, STELLAService, Booker, the Flatiron School, Grapeshot, WeWork, and Rock Shrimp Productions. These new businesses occupy nearly 500,000 square feet of net new office space and support over 1,500 full-time-equivalent jobs.

Energy Efficiency in Commercial Real Estate

For over a decade, HR&A worked closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to design and manage some of the State’s most effective energy efficiency programs.

Reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings is vital to achieving New York State’s energy efficiency goals. In 1999, the nearly 600-million square feet of commercial office space in the State was responsible for 25 percent of its energy use and emissions. The Governor and former Mayor Bloomberg set goals of 15% electric efficiency savings by 2015, and 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, respectively. Therefore, reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings is vital to achieving these goals.

From 2007-2012, HR&A worked closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to design and manage a marketing, outreach and technical assistance program, Commercial Real Estate Outreach (CREO), that led owners and managers through the diagnostic and financial planning work needed to identify a scope of improvements that would maximize both energy savings and return on investment.  As part of the program, HR&A developed a New York State-specific building benchmarking tool; a one-day walk-through energy audit; a lease analysis tool that evaluates how the costs and savings of potential measures will accrue to owners and tenants; and an action plan that summarizes the analyses, prioritizes recommended improvements, estimates costs and returns, and identifies applicable NYSERDA incentives. HR&A also assisted owners and managers with green leasing and marketing strategies and outreach to tenants. CREO proved to be one of the most effective energy efficiency programs advanced by the State.


In order to effectively identify outreach targets, HR&A produced and, following the Great Recession, updated a Market Analysis and Outreach Strategy for the state’s commercial office sector. The report evaluated the sector’s leading landlords, management companies, and their portfolios. The report explored four fundamental motivations for investing in energy efficiency: increased rents and/or decreased vacancy, decreased operating costs, enhanced green image, and compliance with impending governmental mandates. The report proposed a set of target landlords and tenants and suggested a marketing message for each.


We attribute our success to the fact that we provided dedicated Account Management for the 24 portfolios with whom we worked most intensively to facilitate uptake into NYSERDA’s core incentive programs. CREO was responsible for 227 NYSERDA program applications. In total, over 103 million square feet has been impacted by HR&A’s work, with $10 million in incentives disbursed and 13 million kWh saved.