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Community Data March2011

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New Community Data features being tested on OASIS

(March 2011)

We want to make OASIS more open and accessible (pun intended!) for our users. It should be easier to add mapped data to OASIS, and we'd like to test the option of letting anyone add any data layer they want to OASIS (within reason) regardless of whether the mapped information is explicitly related to open space. This would go far to making OASIS a more meaningful community platform for mapping New York's neighborhoods.

Possible data to add to OASIS

Some data sets might be small or temporary. For example:

  • Wouldn't it be neat to overlay all of Prospect Park's destination sites on OASIS's maps, so you can view them with historical aerial photos? The Prospect Park Alliance website shows the destinations, but doesn't have the rich detail that OASIS's maps have.
  • Or perhaps adding the locations of "stalled development" sites in Brooklyn? City Councilmember Brad Lander's website highlights these locations (see below), but not along with maps of land use patterns, other housing sites, legislative districts, and more that OASIS provides.


Or other data sets might be fascinating but totally unrelated to parks and community gardens. For example:

  • 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire that took the lives of almost 150 workers and provided a tragic but powerful rallying cry for the then-nascent labor movement. Researchers have mapped where each of the victims lived. But what if we could view these locations on OASIS, overlaying historical maps simultaneously with the current street grid, imagining what we might have seen 100 years ago as we walk to the subway along the same path that an immigrant worker in the Triangle factory strode along a century ago?
  • Last year New York City was hit with a blizzard that caught city officials unprepared. The local public radio station (WNYC) mapped the locations of people who called in with reports of whether their streets were plowed or not. What if we could view these spots with maps (that we have on OASIS) of demographics, zoning, land use, schools, and transit?


With each of these examples, maybe some interesting geographic patterns would turn up, or maybe not. But at the very least it'd be intriguing to open up OASIS as a platform for creating and analyzing visual correlations like these -- and more. The sky's the limit. The only thing holding us back -- till now -- was the technology.

Fusion Tables & OASIS

Last year Google developed a new service called "Fusion Tables" that could make this vision a reality. Fusion Tables enables you to quickly upload a list of items (like a spreadsheet) or create one from scratch, save it online, map it (if it includes location information), and share it with the world. The Center for Urban Research's application architect David Burgoon was able to integrate the Fusion Tables service into OASIS. It's still in the testing phase, but we think the combination of Fusion Tables with OASIS could substantially increase OASIS's value as a community mapping platform.

In order to test Fusion Tables with OASIS, we've done the following:

  • added a "Community Data" tab to the right of the map


Eventually you'll be able to add your own data from Fusion Tables (or any table that's already been created in Fusion Tables), simply by typing the table ID number in a text entry box on the OASIS map page.

For now, when you click one of the data links, we display a list of the sites in that table, and automatically show the locations on the OASIS map. You can hover over each map marker or list entry and both the list item and the map icon will be highlighted. ftselection400.png

You can click once on the list entry, and it stays highlighted (along with its map marker).

Double-click on a list entry to move it to the top of the list and zoom in on that location on the map. Click the + sign next to the list item to expand the entry, displaying that record's information that was uploaded at Fusion Tables.

You can select which two columns you want to display in the list. We automatically display the first two columns from the Fusion Table data. But you can use the pull-down menu to choose what you want to display.

Click next to these pull-down menus to sort the list. Click once for ascending, click again for descending.

Some limitations in the beta version

If you're familiar with Fusion Tables, you know that there are many options you can configure. While we're testing how this new feature works with OASIS, keep the following things in mind if you'd like to suggest Fusion Tables data we should add:

  • Visibility of your data table must be public or unlisted.
  • It must be exportable.
  • It needs to be point data.
  • And it has to have a location column.

What do you think? Please let us know.

Community Map Layers

We're also testing a feature that's somewhat more labor intensive, but nonetheless powerful. And it doesn't have the limitations of Fusion Tables, in that it can be any type of geographic feature, not just "point" locations.

Scroll down the Legend tab in OASIS, and you'll now see a section called "Community Maps (beta)." For now this only includes one layer (described below). But think of it as a placeholder for other types of information that you think would be useful as part of OASIS's maps.

The map layer we've added as a test case shows the areas in western Queens that were impacted by a power blackout in July 2006. For weeks that summer, tens of thousands of residents and businesses were without electricity. Though power was eventually restored, people were justifiably upset and took legal action against Con Ed. The utility eventually entered into an agreement with these groups to provide almost $8 million to invest in energy-efficiency and environmental projects in the Western Queens community affected by the power outage. The NY State Public Service Commission selected a local foundation, the North Star Fund, to administer this project because of the Fund's expertise in facilitating community led grantmaking processes.

Although the Fund, with Con Ed's help, has mapped the affected areas and the groups receiving funds, OASIS is supplementing this effort. We've added the affected areas map to the OASIS site, making it easy for people involved in the program to easily see which properties are inside or outside the affected areas, what community assets (such as community gardens and schools) are located in the area, and what elected officials represent the areas. westernqueens400.png

Next steps

The Community Maps section of OASIS enables us to add maps that may be short-term, or focused on specific locations. We envision the Community Maps on OASIS to change regularly as issues evolve or local needs change. We will seek to involve the [Steering_Committee|OASIS Steering Committee] more actively in deciding on what types of information should be included.

What are your thoughts? In particular, we'd like feedback on:

  • What criteria do we use to add map layers?
  • How much value does this bring to local community organizations? (compared with something like Google Maps, for example).
  • Should we add layers to this section indefinitely, or perhaps only use this to display time-limited information?
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