Public Lab Wiki documentation

New York City

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local organizers

upcoming events

2014 project preview:

  • testing Gowanus sediments for PAHs with our DIY spectrometers alongside a """""professional""""" lab who can provide us known samples.
  • working with amazing EJ activists in Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, NJ on infrared imagery and garden metrics.
  • North Brooklyn Boat Club and Newtown Creek Alliance's aerial mapping response to the impending release of EPA's Phase 1 assessment of the "State of the Creek". (canoes!)
  • Jamaica Bay mapping:
  • GLAM!
  • el Puente in South Williamsburg balloon mapping greening and community redevelopment sites on Earth Day April 29
  • new Staten Island collaboration
  • Flushing Bay:
  • and a new workshop series to demo new tools and methods

Lending Library

We have a lending library of tools, instructional materials, and a Makerbot! based at the former Pfizer building in Brooklyn: 630 Flushing Avenue. Inquire about borrowing equipment, attending events, launching a new research project and more on the PLOTS-NYC mailing list:

The Public Lab NYC community's mapping efforts are featured in Google Maps.

(Above: a plume discovered with near-infrared balloon photography in the Gowanus Canal in 2011 by PLOTS mappers and the GCC)

Gowanus Canal Investigations by GLAM

Read the whole story here: Follow along to get updates:

The Gowanus Low Altitude Mapping project is popularly referred to by its acronym: GLAM and is located in Brooklyn, New York.

Geo NYC May Meetup: Eymund Diegel, Gowanus Canal Conservancy's Grassroots Mapping from OpenGeo on Vimeo.

Jamaica Bay, Gateway National Park

Gena Wirth is leading a long-term investigation into the wetlands reconstruction effort by the Army Corps of Engineers in Jamaica Bay, New York. See her beautiful high-resolution maps and follow the project at


Newtown Creek

Just starting up is a Newtown Creek monitoring project with partners North Brooklyn Boat Club and Newtown Creek Alliance.


Above: the launch site for the December 7, 2013 Public Mapping Mission with NBBC, NCA, CUSP, and GovLab. Research Note here

From : Plank Road (58th Road in Maspeth, Queens) is an underutilized street end with known historic and ecological significance on Newtown Creek. With support from the NY-NJ Harbor & Estuary Program and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) the Newtown Creek Alliance, in partnership with the North Brooklyn Boat Club, is aiming to transform Plank Road to a destination public space providing access as well as ecological/historical information about the area. Read more about NCA and NBBC's plans for restoration and education.

The earliest set of imagery was collected from the Riverkeeper boat during a shoreline infrastructure assessment in Summer 2011. (In progress map). Newtown Creek is another EPA Superfund site within the five boroughs of NYC.


(Above: A plume of unidentified material in Newtown Creek, photographed with a balloon mapping kit by PLOTS mappers and Riverkeeper in 2011)

Additionally, Aurash Khawarzad led a kite mapping party on site in summer 2012.

Bronx River at Soundview Park

Several partnering organizations are testing out research methods for a variety of topics and sites in NY Harbor and along the Hudson River including mapping oyster reefs by NY/NJ Baykeeper and mapping phragmites by Nature Conservancy of NY. See oyster reefs (and discarded tires) visible at lunar low tide in the Bronx River:


Five Borough Farm

Liz Barry and Phil Silva are Outreach Fellows on Five Borough Farm, a project of the Design Trust for Public Space. Five Borough Farm provides a set of user-friendly tools that can be used by farmers and gardeners everywhere to track and evaluate urban agriculture's myriad impacts. The outcomes monitoring toolkit we developed is being piloted by 25+ community gardens and urban farms around New York City. Many of the sites are also being mapped through pole aerial photography in visible and infrared wavelengths -- follow our process at


Cypress Hills

This 8 week Air Quality Class was created for the Cypress Hills Air Quality (CHAQ) Initiative, with support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency's program "Citizen Science: Community Involvement Today and in the Future". This project is in collaboration with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. Program participants will spend 24 weeks working with air quality sensors to monitor indoor air pollutants in Cypress Hills and East New York. The students will catalog and analyze the environmental air pollutant hazards that affect neighborhood homes and will share their findings with other community members. Follow along at


Freshkills Park, Staten Island

Read all about the project here: Follow along:

Nick Johnson is investigating Freshkills Park, formerly Freshkills Landfill, as a part of an ongoing project titled Life of Trash, a project dedicated towards better understanding the invisible urban waste infrastructure and supporting community education and awareness around landfill activity.

Lower East Side

Veronica Acosta has mapped Pier 42 with the Hester Street Collaborative and the local community as part of envisioning what the pier can become in the future.


Wendy Brawer of Green Maps joined the Lower East Side Ecology Center's group bicycle ride along the high water line of hurricane Sandy in June 2013. They used an Infragram to document how street trees were failing to leaf out. Their hypothesis was that due their small treebeds in the concrete sidewalks being full of salt and contaminants, street trees were suffering more than park trees:


New Jersey

Sean McGuinness is New Jersey's main Public Lab organizer. He also works closely with the newly formed (2013) Philadelphia group.

An early regional project was Grassroots Newark, organized by Jen Hudon in 2011, which focused on development and community issues on both sides of the Passaic River:

Event mapping

Oscar Brett has led events to crowd-assemble party balloons into rigs with upwards of 100 people to map Occupy Wall Street marches: see, events and maps.


List of all regional maps created

[updated July 31, 2013] These nine maps have been added to the Google satellite base layer. Also listed, two NDVI/IR maps taken to accompany visible imagery on same date.

These two NDVI and IR maps listed below are not in Google because they are the exact same date as the visible light map and Google can only take one map for any given date/location:

History: our beginnings in 2010

NYC supported the Gulf Coast response to the BP Oil Spill in May 2010. Current and past students of Liz Barry met up outside of class to help the Grassroots Mappers with remote logistics such as connecting volunteer mappers with available spots on boats at specific marinas from which the most vulnerable wetlands could be reached. This group included Molly Oberholtzer, Ian Pugh, and Kaushal Shrestha, and Corey Mullee, and went on to create their own balloon aerial mapping rig with CHDK camera.

The first ever Grassroots Mapping workshop was held in New York City in June 2010 in the collab space and at the Hudson River Piers. Natalie Jeremijenko, Victoria Marshall, Liz Barry, Jeff Warren and about 6 others attended.

An October 2010 workshop was held at Union Square with Parsons The New School for Design, see the blog post on Victoria Marshall was instumental in making this workshop happen. Jen Hudon, Lee Altman, Jenny Chou (who went on to lead aerial mapping in Beijing), and Leif Percifield joined at this time. The New School Geo Club was a briefly lived student group that was active mapping social patterns in Washington Square Park and other sites.