Department Of Information Technology And Telecommunications Releases New Digital Aerial Map Of New York City

July 19, 2017

City launches ‘NYC Then & Now’ app to show evolution of city landscape since 1924 New geospatial map tiles available to the public to develop apps, perform research, and more

NEW YORK—The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) today announced the release of a new aerial map of New York City as part of “NYC Then & Now,” an interactive application that for the first time allows users to compare aerial photography from as early as 1924 to contemporary images.
1924 Flushing Meadows
2016 Flushing Meadows

NYC Then & Now, which can be found at https://maps.nyc.gov/then&now, allows users to see how a specific address or geographic point has changed over time. The map and application were developed by DoITT’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team, which for the first time is also releasing the images and underlying data to the public to use through New York City’s Open Data Portal—free of charge—to build their own New York City apps and tools.

“NYC Then & Now allows New Yorkers to visualize the old saying ‘In New York City, the only constant is change,” said Anne Roest, DoITT Commissioner. “We’re proud to serve both City residents and the tech community by releasing decades of city aerial photography in one tool and—for the first time—our underlying map data. We hope to see many more enriching NYC-focused tech products built using this valuable source material.”

Among the data used in NYC Then & Now are 2,049 extremely accurate orthophotographic (aerial) images captured from March 26 to April 5, 2016 by a small plane flying approximately 8,200 feet above mean ground elevation. The City has worked in conjunction with New York State Information Technology Services (ITS) to capture new images every two years since 2006.  The map also uses planimetric data that describes every single physical feature of the New York City landscape.

The City has previously used its orthophotography and map services to produce interactive applications that, among other things, help New Yorkers determine their hurricane zone, identify water quality at the city’s various beaches, and—most recently—find a 3K program within School Districts 7 and 23. Today, all 2,049 images and the map services the GIS team developed from open source software are available to entrepreneurs, non-profits, civic groups, academic institutions, media, and the public at https://maps.nyc.gov/tiles/ for app development, research, and other uses.

“New York State is proud to partner with the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to create aerial maps of New York City.  New York State stood up the program to obtain statewide imagery in 2001, and we are pleased that the use of these images expanded, almost a decade ago, to include detailed imagery of New York City.  Making the images publicly available for the first time through the new NYC Then & Now interactive app will enable users to digest content in a new and creative way by allowing them to embark on a digital time travel through various point in the City. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, ITS will continue to work with our partners and clients to develop innovation that matters for New Yorkers,” said Robert H. Samson, New York State Chief Information Officer.

“NYC Then & Now provides a more modern, engaging and visually compelling way to consume maps and demonstrates the value of data visualization for the benefit of our youth, City agencies and entrepreneurs,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., New York City Chief Technology Officer. “The app has the potential to educate our City’s youth via an interactive and unique learning experience, strengthen our City preparedness and resiliency efforts with visualization of landscape, and further embolden our tech community to build more beneficial applications using our Open Data Portal.”

“At EDC we work to invest in our city’s future by building on the rich history of our diverse communities,” said NYCEDC President James Patchett. “This mapping tool helps visually connect New Yorkers to both our past and present. And by making this data available to app developers, it will complement the City’s larger efforts to support a culture of open innovation.”

“DoITT’s GIS group produces and procures many geospatial products that are vital to our work at NYC Emergency Management. As an example, our redrawing of the city’s hurricane evacuation zones in 2013 was largely dependent on the flooding levels that were modeled using a digital elevation model provided by DoITT. Also, orthophotography provided by DoITT was used by NYC Emergency Management to analyze ground conditions and finalize the borders of the zones. Finally, the public-facing Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder application was built and is hosted by DoITT. It is a well-designed app that successfully provides the information that New Yorkers need to prepare for an evacuation if a hurricane threatens the city,” said James McConnell, NYC Emergency Management’s Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Data.

“Historical data, maps, and records shouldn't sit in archives -- they should be accessible to the public, feeding research tools or exciting visualizations like this one,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The Then & Now map is a great example of how today’s technology can open windows to our past, and provides a fascinating look at how our city has changed.”

“New York City’s rich history dating back to the1920s is now on display from the unique perspective of aerial photography for everyone to vividly enjoy,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to the Department of Information Technology and Communication's Geographic Information Systems team for creating 'Then and Now' -- an exciting new way for New Yorkers to use the Open Data Portal to learn more about our City.”

New Yorkers are invited to post images or screenshots of their homes, businesses, or other locations found on NYC Then & Now using the hashtag #NYCThenandNow.