New Yorkers are known world over for their indifference. Significant efforts must be invested in order to excite residents of the big city. However, two Israelis living in the city recently managed to kick up quite a storm through an iPhone application they developed that has created no small amount of buzz in the last week.
So, what did it take to draw the New Yorkers out of their apathy? Just a little Israeli chutzpah and a relatively simply application that allows users to locate the closest broken parking meter along with detailed directions on how to get to it. This is no trivial issue. According to city ordinances, it is legal to park next to a broken meter for one hour without paying, making this application a vital one in city where parking prices can reach $500 or more a month.
Behind the application, called NYC Broken Meters, are Raviv Turner, a native Israeli and former officer in the Armored Corps who has been living in New York City for the past eight years, and his partner Ilya Levin.
"About a year-and-a-half ago, when the iPhone platform was opened to external developers, I started the company Guerillapps with Ilya that promotes application development for the iPhone," said Turner in an interview with Calcalist.
"The City of New York recently announced a competition for developing city applications called NYC BigApps. We signed up and started looking at databases the city put online for the competition when we came across a database that collects traffic inspectors' reports of broken meters. We live and work in New York and know how hard it is to find parking. This is how the idea for the application was born," explained Turner.
The application was launched last week and received quite a bit of media buzz within a short time: an article on page 3 of the popular newspaper The New York Post, an item in the news section of NBC's local news station, and endless mentions in blogs.
Were you surprised by the broad interest?
"Yes. We didn't expect such a response. We knew that we came across something nice, but we didn't expect the noise it made. It took us entirely by surprise. I presume it made a lot of noise because we are using city information in order to scheme against the city, so to speak. New Yorkers are very sensitive about parking – even more so if there is an application that uses city information in order to allow them to receive free parking."
Were there any negative responses?
"No. I assume that a vast majority of iPhone users in New York see it favorably. I also don't think it is to the city's detriment. In the next update, we plan on allowing users to report broken meters to the city. Overall, it can be a win-win for the city as well. If it makes the city hurry up to fix broken meters, then its all for the better. We are entirely legitimate and are using databases that the city itself made public. One of the categories in the competition is the Popular Choice Award, which I think we have a good chance of winning."
Have any responses been received from the city?
"The city hasn't responded in the meantime. But one of the prizes for first place is dinner with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So, if we win, I'll ask him what he thinks."
What about making an Israeli application?
As a former Tel Avivian, Turner is well aware of the parking woes in the city, and has an offer for local entrepreneurs: "Go for it, somebody should do this in Tel Aviv, too. If someone in Israel contacts us, we will give him the application's source code for free."