NYC Planning Labs, One Year In

In July 2018, NYC Planning Labs turned one. 🎉

In the past twelve months we’ve moved extremely fast, not only shipping innovative digital planning tools, but also setting a major precedent for the use of agile methods, human-centered design, and open technology in New York City government. As we like to say:

How we build is as important as what we build”

First, a little visual of what we built, week by week:

View the code & data for this chart

This chart shows the number of commits by week for the seven major builds we took on in the past year. While commit volume isn’t an extremely useful metric on its own, some patterns emerge when commits are shown across several projects (see all of our projects).

You can see the general cadence we had throughout the year. As a small team, we try to focus on one project at a time, sprinting hard for 4 to 6 weeks before coming up for air to maintain the rest of our portfolio. You can also clearly see some weeks where we’re all over the place and are doing maintenance and updates on many projects at once.

Year One Highlights

In no particular order, here are some things we look back on fondly from our first year of existence.

Our website

We cloned 18F’s website, and repurposed it for It was not only a practical re-use of open source code, it was also an homage to a team whose values and mission we hope to emulate down here at the local level.

It’s since been re-built in Gatsby, but the original was a direct clone of 18F’s Jekyll site.

NYC migration visualization

We built this awesome interactive visualization of NYC’s historic Migration Trends with DCP’s population trends (project 0!).

CD Profiles

We built and launched NYC Community District Profiles with DCP’s Planning Coordination Division. As a “data digest”, community profiles compiles dozens of high-value datasets at the community district level, providing a highly valuable and accessible tool for neighborhood-level data and metrics.

Fresh blogs

We blogged a lot! We try to shoot for one new post per person per month, which is harder than it sounds when you’re moving this fast. Check out our publication on medium.

Reimagine ZoLa

We built and launched ZoLa, modernizing a critical NYC Planning tool that puts a wealth of property information at your fingertips. It’s sleek, responsive, and data-rich!

From Pittsburgh to New York City

We took in some civic tech v̶a̶g̶a̶b̶o̶n̶d̶s̶ friends from Pittsburgh. Nick Hall, head of the Digital Services Studio for the City of Pittsburgh, and Steve Saylor, a developer at the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, came to visit for a week. We shared stories, talked tech, and they even contributed some code!

The above scene was memorialized in LEGO blocks by Bob Gradek, the director of the WPRDC.

A few months later we learned the WPRDC adopted some the mapping tools we use in their latest app!


We built GeoSearch, an autocomplete geocoding service using Pelias, the open source geocoder originally developed at Mapzen. It uses NYC’s official address database, so has better NYC-centric results than other geocoders.

Pop FactFinder

We built and launched Population FactFinder with the Population Division, making the wealth of data in the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census more accessible than ever.

Sharing how we work

We ventured out to other NYC agencies to do “lunch and learns” and demo our work, talk about our approach, and get people excited about government tech. We’ve visited Health, Parks, and Sanitation… where should we go next?

Carto Locations

We sat on panels and shared our work around #opensource geo technology at Carto’s user conference in Williamsburg.

Metro Region Explorer

We built NYC Metro Region Explorer, an intuitive story-style map application that helps DCP’s regional planning division show “the big picture” of regional housing and jobs trends.

Team breakfasts

We had team breakfasts in 7 different NYC Community Districts. We’re on a five-year mission to have breakfast in all 59!

Summer internship

We hired an awesome summer intern. (Hi Taylor!)

International visitors

We received a visit from a delegation of representatives from South Korean Local Governments, and shared our work.

Want a sticker?

We distributed 600 NYC Planning Labs Stickers. Want one? Fix a bug or find us at an event!

Street Map

We built NYC Street Map with DCP’s Technical Review Division, which makes looking up changes to the official City Map easier than ever. This project exposed more than 8,000 high resolution scans of engineering drawings that add and remove NYC streets, dating back over a century.

🏆 Trophy Case

We won a Technically Brooklyn Award (Tech Mission Org of the Year).

Zoning Application Portal

We built ZAP Search, which was a high-profile, high-priority intervention, in record time and to the highest standards, adding clarity to the complex NYC Land Use Application process and making it easer to find an application and track its status.

It’s been a wild ride, and we are looking forward to some team growth and more ambitious projects in the coming year. We want to thank everyone in the #opensource and #civictech world who have been cheering for us. We want to thank the amazing planners and analysts here at the Department of City Planning who we got to collaborate with on so many awesome engagements.

We want to specifically thank Hassan Adekoya, CIO, and Jon Kaufman, COO, who made Labs possible in 2017 and continue to champion our approach to government tech and digital services. Here’s to the next year and beyond!