Posted by Eymund Diegel and Anthony Deen

Map showing NYC buildings requiring energy audits on a ten-year basis.

Definition: a map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes.

Definition: Mapping usually refers to map-making and is often used instead of cartography. The term Mapping is also sometimes used to describe the acquisition of data directly from a source as in terrain or imagery.

Based on these two definitions we can see that there can be a difference between map-making or cartography and mapping - as in identifying, collecting and locating data. In the last few years, maps linked with data - that is database derived maps - have becoming more and more of an available resource.

In recent years our City government through PlaNYC 2030 and the coordinated efforts of several city agencies has been developing a number of data mining resources to connect to maps. These include raw data and geographic data, with more assets added all the time.

The Mayor’s Office and other offices use data driven maps to make government projects more transparent and to communicate what the City government is doing on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. These assets also track the city’s efficiency and effectiveness. As the business school saying goes - you can’t expect what you can’t inspect.

The city also funds maps that are business and community resources. Projects like NYC SCOUT and the NYC Solar Map in particular stand out for their usefulness as actionable resources.

There are different kinds of maps. Some photo based, some iconographic and others using three dimensional modeling. Now they’ve become easier to use and more readily available - allowing for now only new kinds of map making but also the linking of data sets for more intelligent and functional resources.

With Google Mapmaker and Google Earth anyone can start making a data driven map. Below we’ve included examples and resources which we hope will inspire you to learn more and join in.

Mapping Examples
The NYC Green Map is an excellent example of connecting a useful dataset to a physical map.

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science and Grassroots Mapping working with the GCC have been taking sequential aerial views of the 2nd Avenue Conservancy site. Here are some photos of what they have been doing:

2011 Grassroots Mapping Gowanus Canal Balloon and Kite Aerials PDF Presentation.

Gowanus Canal Balloon Photography Aerials, Winter 2011, Part 1.

Also, here’s an example of a community proposal using mapping - it’s to have the First Street Basin converted into a Battle of Brooklyn Historic Water Park, with an eventual request to DEP to divert the proposed new 20 million dollar Carroll Street Storm Diverter drain down the First Street Basin Right of Way (The Africa Israel Site) to provide clean water for a reconstructed Battle of Brooklyn museum and mill wheel, kid friendly spring fed water park wetland, and new boat house. 

Mapping Resources
Historical Maps of the Gowanus
New York City SPEED GIS resources (Searchable Property Environmental E-Database)
New York City Department of City Planning - Gowanus Corridor Framework
NY DCP Proposed Zoning for Gowanus Area
Brad Landers’ map of stalled development
EPA Gowanus Superfund Aerial Map
EPA/ DEP/ ACoE/ DEC Study Maps
Gowanus Wiki Map
Grassroots Mapping
Make a Map

Photographic Resources
What Was There seeks to take old photos and overlay them on current Google Street Views.

There are historical photographs of the Gowanus area at Proteus Gowanus’s Hall of the Gowanus

Brian Lehrer recently had an episode oh the subject of geo-locating historic urban photos. The segment on the show starts at frame 26:40. As a bonus, Gowanus Balloon Aerial Photography Mapping comes on right after that.

Street level historic views of the Gowanus, if available, will be in the Brooklyn Public Library's Historical Photo Archive.

There are some interesting New York Public Library photos from the 1930s showing the garbage dumping and landfilling of the Gowanus marshes, with the Manufactured Gas Plant Reservoirs in the background here: Gowanus Canal Squatter Colony Photos circa 1934

Another good source is to buy a copy of the Glory of Brooklyn's Gowanus.

Happy Mapping!

The image above is a 19th century drawing by Henry Whittemore of the Denton farm and Denton Mills Pond (part the Gowanus estuary), showing the area of the Battle of Long Island.