MapPLUTO is a mashup of geographic information and real estate data about New York City, the most powerful and comprehensive data set about the real New York that any government agency maintains. For ten years, until July 2013, the Department of City Planning charged $3000 per year for any organization or person to have access to an up-to-date version of the data for the whole city. This fee gave real estate developers, urban planners, architects, and engineers a huge information-access advantage over schools, community-based organizations, and residents seeking information about land in the city. We're so glad to have been part of changing that.
As of last week, thanks to newly-freed MapPLUTO, OASIS, the map of everything about New York City that matters inside and outside government, has up-to-date ownership information for the first time since 2010. This is particularly useful for people who are looking to access to vacant private land and need a simple way to figure out who to talk to about potentially collaborating to improve the neighborhood. No more having to dig through the City property Register or the Department of Finance website! Got other ideas of how you want to play with the reality of the city? You can download MapPLUTO for free here right now.
Last year, we partnered with students, scholars and advocacy organizations to create an environment in which a free MapPLUTO became inevitable. According to the Committee on Open Government, this kind of data is defined as “government records” under the FOIL, and government records are meant to be accessible to anyone who asks to see them. Because Planning is a City Agency, it is subject to Freedom of Information Law. We encouraged many people to submit FOIL requests for MapPLUTO. The request were all honored; each person who made one had to pay a $5 duplication fee and was rewarded with 5 jewel cases holding DVDs of city data, one per borough. Other advocates brought the issue up in the government offices where data policy was being written and we went to the press with it. And then, quietly, City Planning put up a link and made it possible to get the data directly, no letters and no DVDs needed!
Now if everyone could only get their 10-years of fees back…