Uncharted Singles
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Uncharted Singles

Administrative Infrastructures

The tangled lines of this map represent 10 layers of administrative jurisdictions covering New York City.

Each map layer depicts a set of borders marking different fire companies, police precincts, schools, community boards, municipal courts, congressional districts, the state assembly and senate, as well as city council.

In some places, the boundaries overlap exactly. These agreements are often found along natural physical borders of water. Below left is the map of Rikers Island in which all boundaries overlap exactly. In other places, jurisdictions intersect and overlap without seeming to be aware of each other. Below right is a part of the Bronx where very little is in agreement. Here, walking a few blocks means traveling through largely different set of jurisdictions at each corner.

This map of administrative boundaries serves 2 functions. The first is utilitarian, by clicking on a location or searching for a street address, the user is shown all the jurisdictional boundaries that covers the place they have chosen. Here are 2 examples of how layers are presented on the left panel of each map below using a street address and a set of sample coordinates.

The second reason we built this map is to encourage the visual exploration of different types of administrative boundaries. The map shows how different types of physical jurisdictions overlap and interact with each other throughout the city.

Jurisdictions serving different needs carve up the city differently. Fire companies, school districts, and police precincts have to take into consideration physical proximity. The political boundaries of congress, state assembly, and senate by comparison replace physical constraints with demographic ones. Another set of boundaries representing community boards and city council resembles a hybrid of the first 2. Yet all 3 groups of jurisdictions, with differing purposes and agendas, inevitably share every resident and place in the city.

It is no surprise that carefully crafted political boundaries stand out as oddly shaped. Here in my home neighborhood in Queens, I am represented by Congressional District 14. Opening up the “Congressional District 14” layer to take a closer look, I can see that in addition to being shared between the Bronx and Queens, it also intersects with 14 State Assembly districts, and 9 State Senate seats as well as 6 Municipal Courts, 16 Community Boards, and 12 City Councils Districts.

How does political representation intersect with the services provided by the city’s fire, police, and education departments? My school district (district 25) sits entirely inside the borough of Queens, but is shared by 3 congressional districts, 2 municipal courts, 6 state assembly representatives, 7 community boards, 5 city councils. Functional areas such as fire companies and police precincts share similar division when overlaid with the political.

If we live in New York City, then we live in a place where these 10 layers of administrative boundaries align and diverge. This map shows every space as one that is separated by borders and shared by intersections at the same time. Please use the link below to find your jurisdictions and how they connect you to the rest of the city: https://centerforspatialresearch.github.io/admin_infrastructure/

About the data: Geographical data is just a small subset of public data. Within this subset, we chose just 10 representative layers out of the geographical boundaries available. For data on New York City, you can find the physical boundaries of a large assortment of administrative jurisdictions in the nyc.gov data portal here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/open-data/districts-download-metadata.page

About the map: The map is created by detecting the intersections between the 10 layers of geographical boundaries. The intersections are built in QGIS, and the map is built using a combination of D3.js and mapboxgl. The code is free to use under creative commons and can be found here: https://github.com/CenterForSpatialResearch/admin_infrastructure

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