Chilling Effects and the

(Thomas Lowenhaupt) #1

I began 2016 resolving to play nice with the city administration on their effort. This is a report on how that’s going. First some background.

For those not familiar, the city reserved 385 neighborhood domain names -,,, etc. - for licensing to nonprofit entities. (See As part of their awareness effort the Office of Innovation came to Queens Borough Hall and outlined the program. At the meeting I asked about the licensing agreement that would guide the operation of the dotNeighborhoods. I was delighted to be provided with a copy of the draft Licensing Agreement.

I had a problem with several aspects of the licensing agreement and asked that the city reconsider. Innovation checked with the Department of Law and responded no to all 17 of my questions. Everything would remain as is.

Of my 17 questions the two about which I had most concern were a Prohibited Content section and a “without cause” clause. The prohibited content section was two pages long and included “campaign-related materials or partisan political materials.” The dotNeighborhoods were to move the foci of city power to residents in their neighborhoods, in my fondest dream. Did this mean no election related discussions?

The “without cause” clause said the city could take the domain name away from the operating entity without cause or explanation. I thought, who’d invest their time in such a effort? Not me.

Today, February 12, was to be the day the city notified successful applicants. I’ve not seen or heard anything and am now feeling guilty about my “play nice” resolution. What if residents put in substantial time and resources only later learn of the layers of limitations in the Licensing Agreement.

My polite requests and suggestions have not elicited anything meaningful from city hall. And I’m beginning to think my New Year’s Resolution should have been to shout louder about the limitations imposed by the license.

(bahij) #2

I also applied to the city for a name. They gave my organization a ton of trouble about not submitting a 990 tax form to prove we’re a non-profit. The reason I didn’t submit it is because we net less than $50,000 are not required to file a 990, but can instead file a 990N online. The city would not accept our 990N receipt and would only continue to review our application upon receipt of our bank statements.

I suspect that a lot of small neighborhood organizations probably have similar finances to ours, or may not collect donations at all. I would like to see the city handle this better in the future.

I’m also wary about the required “modules” in city contract. I’ll have to see what we can do with site, and whether it can function as the organization’s only web site.

(Thomas Lowenhaupt) #3

Thanks for sharing that information.

What neighborhood did you apply for? Has your application been approved?

And I’m very curious about the Licensing Agreement. Have they finalized it? If so, I’d love to see a copy.