April 23, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
A newly relaunched GIS tool called NYCityMap2.0 is bursting with souped-up mapping features for the citizens of New York, N.Y. Accessible on the city's Web site, NYCityMap2.0 offers information about the city's capital construction projects and the addresses, hours of operation, services offered and language access capabilities of walk-in service centers for various city agencies across the five boroughs. Added application functionality includes search history, distance measuring, and users' ability to save and export their maps.
The New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), which deployed the project, said the new functions enhanced features on the prior version of the site, like aerial photos of the city, building and property information, poll site locations, census data, neighborhood health profiles and statistics, restaurant inspection information, locations of educational facilities and transportation hubs.
"It's one of our most heavily used applications. We got a lot of requests for enhancements," said Colin Reilly, director of citywide GIS for DoITT.
The agency rewrote the application with a reusable framework, which the city now uses for other interactive mapping applications. An example is a map it developed for a mayoral program called the Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT). SCOUT vehicles search the city for blights to be repaired before they're reported.
"We have a mapping application that shows the coverage area of the SCOUT vehicles, as well as the incidents that are found," Reilly explained.
He said programming the tool from scratch was critical to its success. Using an off-the-shelf mapping application, like Google Earth, would have been the wrong fit, Reilly remarked.
"We didn't want to be beholden to Google when publishing some new data," Reilly said. "Our tool is so heavily focused on New York City data and information. When you look on the right-hand panel for doing a search, you can search for New York's facilities or link to additional agency Web sites to find more specific information on a building or tax parcel. Most of that information didn't exist in Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth, so the requirements drove us to build our own application."
DoITT used free open source software called GeoServer in conjunction with Oracle Spatial as the database. That, combined with the fact that the agency used internal resources to build the application, meant the project had nearly zero costs, Reilly said.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.