Testimony on OurVeterans.NYC Calendar at Oversight Hearing
On February 7, Adrienne Brammer, OurVeterans Program Manager, testified on behalf of the NYC Veterans Alliance in response to the recommendation in the VAB's annual report for NYC government to establish an ongoing community calendar for the veterans community. Adrienne outlined the value and milestones of the community calendar that the NYC Veterans Alliance has created and maintained since August 2015, which is now at www.ourveterans.nyc.
Her full testimony is below:
My name is Adrienne Brammer, and I am a veteran of the United States Air Force. I served as a photojournalist on combat patrols in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I am here today to testify on behalf of the NYC Veterans Alliance, a member-supported, grassroots policy advocacy and empowerment organization serving veterans, servicemembers, and their families across the New York City metropolitan area.
We appreciate the effort that went into the latest End of Year report of the Veterans Advisory Board (VAB), but I am here to discuss one particular recommendation that has potential bearing on the work I have been doing over the last year and a half, which is for the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services to produce its own online community calendar.
We agree on the concept that an online community calendar is needed—which is why the NYC Veterans Alliance created one in August 2015, and why I have diligently maintained and expanded it since October 2015. Because our calendar has been so successful, we moved it from the Alliance website to its own domain at OurVeterans.nyc, where we host not only an extensive list of upcoming events for veterans and their families across the five boroughs, Long Island, North Jersey, and Westchester—we’ve also added a Bulletin Board of new and short-term opportunities for veterans and their families that aren’t currently listed elsewhere online. We have posted almost 1,000 community events since its inception, and right now our calendar lists more than 50 upcoming events for veterans and their families in the New York Metro area. OurVeterans.nyc currently averages 3,000 unique visitors each month, and our audience continues to grow by the day.
I have served as the Administrator for our community calendar for more than sixteen months, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the work is painstaking. Dozens of local veterans organizations, private individuals, and service providers email their event information, services, and opportunities to me every week, and in a variety of digital formats. My work involves a lot of coordination with these organizations and careful vetting of events to ensure that we are posting the most correct and up to date information available. We include events from every local veteran organization that sends us information. It takes time, attention to detail, and sometimes many interactions to ensure our calendar listing delivers the quality of information our community has come to expect from us.
We post events not just in the five boroughs, but also from across Long Island, North Jersey, Westchester, and even from more distant areas within commuting distance to NYC. We do this because we’ve found that demand for our calendar spans across the entire Metro area, and we often turn away requests from organizations located even further away. All events in our area are welcome on our calendar, from a backyard barbecue for wounded warriors or a small theater production by veteran performers—to the Veterans’ Day Parade and even VAB meetings. We are a trusted source of critical information for our community, and we also hear from organizations and agencies that they use our calendar regularly to not only see what’s happening, but also as a planning tool to deconflict their events from the other myriad events, which most vital during Fleet Week and Memorial Day, and the entire month of November. This is all a service we provide at no cost to our users, and at no cost to city taxpayers.
Our online community calendar has been a key project of the NYC Veterans Alliance as part of our mission of connecting, informing, advocating for, and empowering our community. We are a startup nonprofit organization, and our funding has come from our more than 220 dues-paying members, and more than 200 additional individual donors. A significant portion of our organization’s time and treasure have been put toward building and developing our community calendar, and we continue to actively solicit the input and participation of our community partners and users as we grow and develop this in partnership with our city’s best and brightest civic tech innovators at Civic Hall, where the Alliance is based. Later this year, we plan to make our information transportable to other websites using RSS feed, and to build in search capabilities and other user-friendly tools. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only organization in the country that provides this service to veterans in any large metropolitan area.
We hope that VAB members will take the time to use OurVeterans.nyc as our community already does. We have publicized every VAB meeting that has occurred since our calendar has existed, and we would be pleased to include more information about these meetings, as well as any information relevant to veterans and their families across the New York Metro area. Anyone can submit events or information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our members and donors have made a tremendous investment in what we have already created, and that investment should not be supplanted to duplicate something that already exists, and that is more expansive than what a city agency is chartered to provide.
On behalf of the NYC Veterans Alliance, I thank you for the opportunity to testify today. Pending your questions, this concludes my testimony.