Science Project: Mega Hudson Yards Development to Be First ‘Quantified Community’

To be quantified.

To be quantified.

The unexamined life, as we all know, is not worth living. What, then, of the unquantified life? An existence that does not feed into a data set, whose lessons can only be gleaned via subjective analysis?

Well, in any case, that won’t be a concern for those planning to relocate to Hudson Yards. NYU has announced that it is teaming up with the Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group to “measure and analyze key physical and environmental attributes at Hudson Yards,” a move that they say will help the nascent neighborhood to run as efficiently as possible when it comes to residential, retail, office and public space. A boon to Related, which will be better able to manage its properties with expert feedback. And also, of course, to NYU, which will get a nice data set to work with.

The collaboration is being touted as producing the first “quantified community” in the U.S.—which has a rather creepy, 1950s social experiment ring to it, though Constantine Kontokosta, deputy director NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, assured us that all participation will be opt-in. Mr. Kontokosta said that NYU had approached Related about participating in the collaboration, after surmising what a good data set the new development would provide.

“This is just an incredible research opportunity for us,” said Mr. Kontokosta. “We hope to make the data available to other researchers and programmers, to find ways to make it more sustainable, and to apply the findings across the city.”

Mr. Kontokosta added that this marks the center’s first collaboration with a real estate developer. Ideally, he hopes to convince the other Hudson Yards developers to participate as well.

Although what, precisely, the center will measure is still somewhat vague at the moment. Possibilities include pedestrian flows, air quality within buildings and across open space and the health, the activity of residents and workers using a custom-designed, opt-in mobile application as well as solid food and recyclable waste and energy usage.

Mr. Kontokosta said that he believes residents will be interested in participating, not only because the project will be “unprecedented in scale” but because there’s a lot of interest in the “quantified self” at the moment.The Center also hopes the collaboration will help advance its leadership in the emerging field of “Urban Informatics—the observation, analysis, and modeling of cities.”

“The ability to conceive of and develop an entirely new neighborhood creates tremendous opportunities,” Related Hudson Yards president Jay Cross wrote in a statement. “Through our partnership with CUSP we will harness big data to continually innovate, optimize and enhance the employee, resident and visitor experience.”

And presumably, assuming the data is public—which we would hope it will be (Mr. Kontokosta said that Center hopes to make things “as transparent as possible”)—it will also allow journalists like us to analyze how well the city’s investment in the new neighborhood has paid off in terms of creating a viable community. And how it should fund, aid and encourage future developments like Hudson Yards.