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Visual Proof That Geographic Data Really Should Be Free

When the New York City government released a huge collection of geo-spatial data sets a few weeks ago, it really was Christmas in July -- at least for all those who love analyzing the city through data and maps.

In early July, we covered how the California Supreme Court of California finally ruled that GIS files are public data, siding with the Sierra Club -- who in 2007 tried to get land parcel information from Orange County, only to be hit back with an absurd licensing fee request of $375,000. Just a few weeks after, New York City government gave in to mounting pressure from New York's open data community, and opened up the PLUTO and MapPLUTO, data sets filled with tax lot information. Data sets on zoning and sidewalk cafes are now also available to the public.

Whereas you once had to pay $1,500, now the entire package of data -- cleverly trademarked "BYTES of the BIG APPLE" by the city -- can be accessed for free. This also means that anything made from the data can be shared on the Internet. BKLYNR's interactive map of every is an exciting first look at what can be made with PLUTO data.

This week, Andrew Hill published a click-through map gallery built from PLUTO data, offering an even more intensive preview of the information that can be uncovered coming up. Here are some examples from the gallery:

Hill is a developer at the geospatial data mapping service CartoDB and actually put together a small data service to help others quickly query, filter, download, and map PLUTO data on top of the regular CartoDB service. This way, "Anybody who wanted to quickly create some maps or query the data could do so without having to create their own databases or even download the full dataset," Hill wrote in an email.

The tools are there. And at least for New York City, there's now plenty of data to go through. We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for how PLUTO shows up next. 

Keywords: New York, Maps, GIS, Open Data

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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