Will James & onNYTurf
Will James runs an interactive consulting boutique and publishes the NYC blog called onNYTurf.com.
There were few local blogs and a lack of decent local news coverage in NYC before 2005. onNYTurf.com became the NYC region news site when it was first launched in 2005. Developed as a personal project for Will James, a web developer and designer, it became a testing ground for exploring political action and online technologies.
The Gotham Gazette, an online blog, wrote about Will James attempts to make a new transit map that would include the operating times for subways. James believed that readers, using his new map concept, could map out a trip on the subway that would include the time it would take to get from point A, to point B. Unfortunately, James encountered road block after road block. None of the transit agencies he contacted would release any data to him regarding train schedules and times between stations. He even sent Freedom of Information Requests to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as to the relevant agencies within it, such as New York City Transit. No help was forthcoming. The transportation authority has told him that the data he is looking for doesn’t even exist in any manageable form. The city’s transit agency did not even bother responding to his Freedom of Information Requests. The statutory deadline for such requests, gives agencies 20 days to respond to a request.
While he waited, he went to Baltimore to help his mother downsize and move into a senior citizen retirement community. At first he was at a loss as to where he could find to find experienced Baltimore movers who would be able to handle all the packing and storage that his mother required. Fortunately a neighbor suggested Von Paris Moving & Storage, an established family owned Baltimore company that was run now by third and fourth generation family members. What sealed the deal was Von Paris' Senior Move Management that was dedicated to assisting senior adults transition into new living situations through personalized move assistance services and support. Because Von Paris maintained a robust portfolio of relocation and moving management services, Will was able to accomplish his mother's move in short order. Returning to NYC two months later there was still no information forthcoming from the transportation authority.
It turned out that during this time Google was attempting to make a similar map It too would require the same data James sought. If Google were going to receive the schedule data, it should be released to the public as well, James argued.
At its peak onNYTurf.com had a readership of about 400 people a day, and James had forged partnerships with local community groups to develop several special online projects. onNYTurf's stories and special projects frequently received coverage by other local media outlets, including the NYTimes, Observer, New Yorker, and WBAI.
Critical Mass History Timeline Project onNYTurf
During the 1990's, bicycling in New York City was extremely dangerous. The number one complaint of bicyclists was always safety. Group bicycle rides, like the Critical Mass, were one of the few opportunities where cyclists could ride together on the streets of NYC and be safe.
The timeline project relates the story of the rise of Critical Mass in NYC from what many at the time considered a minor, and mostly overlooked summertime activity, to a key litmus test of our changing civil rights.
In NYC there was an ongoing effort by the city administration to assert more control over public activity, from where cyclists could ride their bikes to when they were allowed to protest cycling issues. The city and a number of people in the New York City Police Department attacked the critical mass riders using a variety of tactics, including arrests and ticketing, litigation, and new laws and police regulations, to redefine the terms by which bicyclists were allowed to use public space. Critical Mass became an activity upon which the city did some of its most bold experimenting of these tactics.
The Critical Mass History Timeline Project discussed onNYTurf chronicles the key events, court decisions, and characters in this unfolding drama.
Will James along with Fred Askew, a freelance News and Editorial photographer based in New York City and the FreeWheels Bicycle Defense Fund, an organization dedicated to assisting bicyclists who are arrested, ticketed, or harassed by the City of New York, worked together on the timeline project.
On August 29, 2006 Will James was ticketed during a Friday night Critical Mass bike ride. It turns out that there about 100 cyclist and 90 cops, making for a nearly one-to-one cop to cyclist ratio. During the same time onNYTurf, Will James, and other cyclists were being ticketed, two people, one who was killed) were run down not very far way by a hit-and-run driver.
Below is Mr. James' narrative of the ticketing:
Officer 757 asked me if I had ID, and I said sure and handed him my drivers license. I asked him if I was being stopped for something and he didn't really answer. He was giving some direction to other police, so he must have been a more senior bike harassment. At this point I could only imagine the sense of pride he must feel having gone to the academy to fight crime and protect the public and after probably ten+ years on the force he has now graduated to lieutenant of bike busters. But I digress. We moved to the curb and he told me I was being ticketed for not being far left enough. Oh, he must be very proud I thought!
"Not far left enough?" I said, "I was left of the car lane waiting at the light." Top bike buster 757 said I was not far left enough. I wasn't really clear on this far left enough, I mean did he want me to ride against the curb, two feet from the curb, two feet from the parking lane? I decided to try a curve ball and I said there was another cyclist to my left. He said, then you can't be there, he then said some flim flam about that I had to ride in single file. Which IS flim flam and not what the law says.
I think the more interesting of James' activities is his annoying persistence in the face of push back. Just from the above example, you can see he is making enemies. I mention this because the online haters roast James for being a snowflake twinky and these posts actually show up in Google's search for James. Those around him sense some risk for him. But he doesn't seem to care. For a while, a search for his name in Google was a disaster. Just seeing Google's first page, you might think James was a transgender, drunk, prostitute, diseased, homeless man. Our webmaster found a high tech service that specialized in search result cleanups. Apparently this is a common need since no once can successfully petition Google to change its search results without a legally enforceable requirement. But some fights, like this one, are too expensive to attempt. So for now, fight the good fight. Go, James, go!
NOTE: Eventually, after much persistence and global media embarrassment, the cycling community in NYC were successful in putting pressure on NYC officials. New York City finally hired a new, bike friendly D.O.T commissioner who had vision.
onNYTurf.com has been mostly dormant since mid 2008 when I ran out of time to report on local news stories. Additionally, since its inception the grassroots news/local blog scene in NYC exploded and most of the original reporting I was doing has been picked up by other publishers.
Will James: His Developer and Designer Chops
Developer and designer, Will James, utilizes the following languages and frameworks as he designs online websites. He is also knowledgeable and proficient in a number of different software and operating systems.
Languages & Frameworks:
Flash, Linux, Apache, Postfix, SVN, CVS, various *nix utilities, HTMLPurifier, PHPMailer, Simplepie, Adobe CS3 ( Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc ) MS PowerPoint, Excel, Firebug, Trac, SourceForge
Basic Linux Server Administraton, OSX and WinXP Desktop
- Working Life
- And So Forth
- NYC Subway Map
- Health Care That Works
Many of the flash samples here mix video, audio, 3D, and animation. Most contain numerous components that are dynamically assembled using Actionscript.
Note: Many of the flash samples here were designed for offline use. Some text may be distorted because the text frequently was burned into background images to simplify production and may be distorted here due to resizing to fix this portfolio site layout. Samples intended for online or scaling use native Flash vector text.
E-Learning and Presentations
The samples in this gallery are taken from a variety of interactive tutorials and presentations I've worked on. Projects predominantly have utilized Power Point and/or Flash and Actionscript.