Making it easier to submit land use applications and saving staff time

We recently launched our most ambitious product to date, Applicant Maps. We partnered with NYC Planning’s Technical Review Division to bring this app to life. The goal was twofold:

  1. Make it easier for people to produce the maps required for applications to the City Planning Commission for land use approvals
  2. Reduce NYC Planning staff time spent checking and reviewing those maps
Example of an area map — the output from Applicant Maps

These maps can be time consuming and expensive to produce, requiring GIS experience and specialized software. Applicant Maps is a free, self-service tool that reduces this barrier to entry. The app guides users through a wizard where they define…

Improved project mapping + distance search + easier filtering + access to more documents

We’ve recently launched several important improvements to NYC Planning’s Zoning Application Portal (ZAP) Search app — a public tool for searching through active and historical zoning and land use applications that are subject to the City Planning Commission. This post highlights these updates, so users can get the most out of our app.

ZAP Search’s recent redesign allows you to search for projects within a distance of your point of interest

Featured updates:

  • We’re improving data quality for mapping projects and have included the option to download spatial data
  • The filtering interface has been redesigned, including a new radius filter!
  • Comments from Community Boards, Borough Presidents, and Borough Boards are available on project profiles
  • Letters to approving agencies (i.e. Dept…

Join a modern tech team building the future of city planning

Application deadline: April 25, 2019 (Apply here)

We’re looking for a student or recent graduate with digital product experience who’s excited about bringing modern software development into city government. In this paid summer internship you’ll work with Planning Labs’ Product team, supporting our entire portfolio of apps.

About NYC Planning Labs

NYC Planning Labs is a division of the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) that embraces progressive civic tech values including open technology, agile development, and user-centered design to build impactful products with NYC’s Urban Planners.

We work with modern tools and languages. We embrace mature frameworks, with an eye towards maintainability and…

We just finished a round of improvements to NYC Planning’s beloved Zoning and Land Use Application (ZoLa). Listed below are the highlights users should be aware of. We’ll do more detailed blog posts on some of these features in the coming month.

Users can now print profiles of tax lots in ZoLa!
  • Custom printing options. You can now print nicely formatted profiles of lots! You can also print a map with a legend to use in meetings and presentations. We’ve learned that many people use ZoLa for scrappy GIS mapping purposes, taking screenshots to print for field visits or to insert into powerpoints. …

What is GitHub and why should you care?

GitHub’s mascot is the “Octocat”. I don’t know why.

When NYC Planning Labs starts a new project, we begin by explaining to our new customers the basics of how we work. GitHub is an essential part of our workflow, and it’s also a tool most non-developers haven’t heard about. In this post, I’ll highlight aspects that are most beneficial for non-coders to understand.


GitHub is a powerful project management tool with features that are beneficial for many types of projects. It’s most important features include content management, version control, and task management.

Github stores all work in a centralized place where anyone can view and use it.

Have you ever had to take over someone else’s project when they’re no longer around to help…

Explaining Labs’ development process using our newest product

We recently finished our quickest project yet — over the course of 3 weeks, we built an interactive map showcasing NYC’s progress towards expanding public access to the waterfront. Since this was a nice, short project, we thought it would be a good example to document and use to explain our typical Planning Labs development process. This post outlines the full collaborative process.

Labs’ typical development process is iterative and driven by frequent input from users

Side note: We were able to build this map so quickly thanks to prior work modularizing functionality we use to build these map apps. These include Labs Layers API (used to serve and style spatial data layers)…

Play a key role in City facilities planning and guiding the footprint of government service delivery in New York City

NOTE: This position has been filled and is no longer active.

The Capital Planning Division at NYC Planning helps inform how agencies across the City make capital investments in things like parks, streets, and community centers.

We are looking for a highly-motivated, entrepreneurial City Facilities Planner to lead the development of a new approach to strategic planning for city facilities. The work involves rigorous data analysis (including spatial analysis using GIS), detailed project management, and close collaboration with partner agencies to support their long-term growth planning and provide additional planning perspectives. This includes working closely with the Department of Citywide…

Exploring market demand, land use constraints, and insights into Atlanta’s development history

View of Atlanta’s core captured by Capt. William Carraway, Georgia National Guard

Atlanta is well known as the poster child for low density suburban sprawl, suffering from terrible traffic and air pollution as a result. As a former Atlanta resident, I wanted to better understand the reasons behind this. Urban economics principles explain that that a city’s level of density should be a function of supply and demand for land. With such sprawl in Atlanta, I wondered if there is really a lack of market demand for denser development, or if zoning regulations are restricting higher levels of building density.

Analysis Approach

The approach for this analysis is based on the reasoning that developers…

Learn about capital investment and the footprint of government services in NYC

Photo by Brandon Jacoby on Unsplash

NOTE: This position has been filled and is no longer active.

The Capital Planning team at NYC Planning is looking for an analytical Summer Intern to support our strategic facility siting and capital planning work. Policy areas include developing strategies for the City’s real estate footprint and improving decision-making around where government services should be located.

The intern will be responsible for producing maps, performing data analysis, and documenting and presenting insights. An example project would be doing spatial analysis comparing current locations and concentrations of facilities against population density and demographic projections for the target client populations.

The ideal…

New facility categories and data quality improvements

An improved version of the Facilities Database was published earlier this summer. The update contains three new facility categories: Privately Owned Public Space (POPS), DHS Drop-In Centers, and Permanent Supportive SRO Housing. Explore sites on the Facilities Explorer.

POPS are now live on the NYC Facilities Explorer!

The classification system for K-12 Schools has also been revised, so it is easier to isolate charter schools, special ed programs, and GED high school equivalency programs. Additionally, improvements were made to the process of identifying and merging duplicate records, but be aware that there are still remaining duplicate records and other data limitations that DCP is working to address.

Hannah Kates

Urban planner focused on using civic tech and data analytics to help cities operate more efficiently, sustainably, and equitably

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