Partnership Provides Wi-Fi Hotspot at Riverbank State Park

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, more than 2,000 senior residents of The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) received hands-on training with new technologies like iPods, digital cameras and social media such as Twitter at NYCHA’s 6th Annual Senior Benefit & Entitlement Fair, held at Riverbank State Park.

In preparation for the fair, Columbia's Office of Government and Community Affairs and the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE), part of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, in partnership with Per Scholas and Digital Divide Partnership, created a public Wi-Fi "hot spot" at Riverbank State Park, making it the first state park in New York with wireless access. The free Wi-Fi network spans the entire park, and will remain open so that visitors can log on with their laptops and other digital devices. The network automatically blocks inappropriate material, content, Web searches and websites so that it is safe for children and families.

The new wireless connection was key to a number of activities at the fair, which in addition to its traditional focus on health and health screenings, featured workshops with computers, cell phones, digital cameras and other mobile devices, as well as instruction for seniors on using Internet search tools like Google and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"We wanted to make sure that they weren't intimidated by technology, that they have not only the use of it for real information but also for social networking and the ability to stay connected," said NYCHA chairman, John Rhea.

Bruce Lincoln, CTICE's entrepreneur in residence, said he was excited to help create "a vibrant, community-based atmosphere that would basically show why it's so important for seniors to have [Internet] access in their homes." He called the newly Wi-Fi-enabled Riverbank Park a place "where technology functions as a civic asset."

Watch video of the seniors who gathered at Riverbank State Park to learn how technology can improve their lives.