Archive for September, 2008

Some funny stuff

September 29th, 2008 by Jack

Since we’re on break, take 10 for a laugh.  Maybe a little bigger chortle for the gentlemen than the ladies though.  Thanks to Amy Dunkin for the video.

Kudos to Collin Orcutt!

September 27th, 2008 by Jack

Another student in Tim Harper’s class gets a published byline.

Recent additions

September 26th, 2008 by Jack

If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve added a couple of “tips” buttons to the horizontal nav bar at the top of this page.  Take a look.

Memo to Steve's class: parts 2 and 3

September 24th, 2008 by Jack

I just received the following response from the Family Watchdog sex offender registry site:

“Non mappable offenders means that we can not map them.  We may not have a full address for the offender or our geocoder does not recognize the address.  Many times a state will only provide a city and zip code for an offender.  This makes them not appear on a map…You can view information about the non mappable offender under the List tab, located just above the map. Then, from the drop down menu under other addresses, click Non-Mappable.”

Regarding the question about the WebCrims court calendar, I’m afraid I didn’t have any luck finding an answer.  I’ve never had reason to use WebCrims for anything other than a case search using a defendant’s name, so I’m not even sure what the purpose would be in searching a calendar by court part.  I suppose I can see searching for a particular judge’s calendar, in which case you don’t even need to enter a court part.  If anyone is still curious about the significance of a court parts search (and is hungry for extra research credit), I’d suggest calling any of the numbers listed on the New York City Criminal Court page directly beneath WebCrims on the “cops and crime” handout.

Memo to Steve Strasser's class: I spaced out!

September 23rd, 2008 by Jack

I know there are a few questions I’m supposed to be answering about research sources, but one of them I can address right now.  I can’t believe I forgot it during class because I use this resource all the time!  Yes, there is a federal equivalent to the New York WebCrims database we reviewed this morning.  In fact, it’s much better than equivalent because in addition to docket info, it also includes scanned documents filed in the cases, and goes back many years.  It’s called PACER, short for Public Access to Court Electronic Records.  The only thing is, you must register for this, and there’s a nominal printing fee per page of results and documents (8 cents a page, with a max of $2.40 no matter how big the document).  It includes civil cases too, but actually, the New York site does that as well.  I just showed you the WebCrims criminal court database specifically because this morning’s lesson was about cops and crime.

So I’ll stick to the excuse that I hadn’t prepared for court questions and PACER is so darn good I don’t even think of it as the federal “peer” to WebCrims.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Lesson #3: Cops and crime

September 22nd, 2008 by Jack

Handout highlights:

  1. Crime statistics at the local, state and national levels
  2. Inmate statistics and lookup/locator tools (plus parole and probation stats)
  3. Most wanted criminals
  4. Sex offender registries
  5. Criminal court information
  6. District Attorneys and lawyers
  7. Death penalty information

Congrats to Sarah Trefethen!

September 21st, 2008 by Jack

A student in Tim Harper’s class scored a byline in Downtown Express.

More “must see” sites for NYC research

September 20th, 2008 by Jack

In addition to the sites already posted, here are some more to check out as you start working your beat…

The number one source for demographics and population statistics will always be the Census Bureau, but as we know, government sites are rarely easy to navigate.  Although typically complicated, the Bureau’s annual American Community Survey page is the place to get the most up-to-date estimates for geographic areas with populations of 65,000 or more.  The area designation most akin to a Community District would be something the Bureau refers to as a Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA), but as you can see by this map, the two are not completely coterminous.  Some are closer than others.  If you don’t feel comfortable using the more difficult ACS page to get the latest PUMA stats, the Department of City Planning has posted some recent reports.  Or if your CD is really not close to being coterminous with a PUMA, you can use the old 2000 Census figures available here or in the district profiles.  However, if you only need ACS or decennial Census data for a city, county, zip code or state, the Bureau’s American FactFinder site is pretty simple to use.

Social Explorer has historical Census data back to 1790, but even more useful are the reports on the religious population dating back to 1980.  Get decennial numbers by county, state and the entire nation.

Another great source for demographics and statistics, including immigration and crime, is Infoshare Online.  Find information for numerous geographic designations, such as Community Districts, zip codes, school districts and police precincts.  We have access to this database via CUNY, but individuals can also apply for free accounts at

Also available to us via CUNY is RAND New York, which features more than 60 databases, including crime statistics by county.

Baruch College’s NYCdata is a terrific site for all sorts of NYC stats and info.

Need street maps?  The CUNY Graduate Center’s OASIS site rivals the CityMap for quality and features, plus it can be set to display CD boundaries.

Speaking of maps, Neighborhood Link will generate them by zip code and list various other information about the neighborhood, although you should verify anything you find here.  Don’t use it as a primary research source.

Lastly, the annual New York State Statistical Yearbook has some good local information, such as the voter registration and political party enrollment numbers by county listed in the elections section (update: more recent voter registration and party enrollment numbers by county are here).

Updates to your handout

September 18th, 2008 by Jack

You learn about new stuff every day, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.  In that vein, please note that I’ve added resources for local Chambers of Commerce and “Student Performance & Accountability” to your handout.  The latter is an especially great place for school reports and other New York City Department of Education data.  Use the same lesson #2 handout link as before.  It’s freshly updated.

Looking for the latest dirt in your CD?

September 17th, 2008 by Jack

Consuella Askew recommends EveryBlock New York.  Enter any New York City address for fresh updates of nearby restaurant inspections, property sales, news coverage and more.  Browse info citywide.  Explore by community board, neighborhood or police precinct.

You might also try New York, recently cited in a New York Times article.  It’s an aggregator that also features a great list of local news sources and blogs, such as, which includes links to even more blogs in the borough of Kings (scroll down the page a bit).

Speaking of blogs, another resource noted in that same Times story is Placeblogger.  This directory could use a little better organization, as you can see by looking at the New York page, but you may still unearth some nuggets here.