North West Bushwick Community Mapping Project – Site Improvements

The North Bushwick Community Mapping Project is a dedicated web cartography project that aims to build awareness around the housing crisis specifically facing Bushwick, but also to inform other communities about urban development, gentrification and displacement in New York City.  This site improvement project aims to make the website more accessible to community leaders and new users. The goal of this project is two-fold in that its aims to improve the context of the map and the user experience of the overall website.

The map is at the core of the project, however in its former state loading, navigating, understanding and using the map seemed to be challenging. The overall website had a simple and clean aesthetic, but lacked legibility and continuity.

Bushwick Community Map_1      Bushwick Community Map_2

One goal of the site redesign is  to add a narrative to help contextualize the project within the housing crisis and to help guide new users.

The first step was to conduct an audit of the site to identify both current problems — eg: broken links, prolonged loading times, lack of responsiveness, inconsistencies in the visual design — and areas for improvement. Our initial goal was to focus on the map experience and the narrative for the user, however it became clear that there needed to be some simplification for both the map and the website.


After presenting the UI revision proposals we received positive feedback from Ziggy and NWB. Ultimately we chose to remove the year built slider and hover descriptions from the proposed UI. The reasons for this were that the year built layer is better conveyed as a choropleth map layer similar to the available FAR map layer. As one of the goals of the stories serves to introduce the various map layers we felt that the pop-up descriptions were no longer necessary and could be redundant if added.

One of the problems with the previous version of the map was how it handled loading the data layers. To improve this technical aspect a CartoDB account was created for NWB and the relevant data was imported into it. The web map now loads data from CartoDB with improved speed and interaction. CartoDB also allows for the automation of processing geospatial data with SQL so that when new, updated data is imported into the account SQL scripts can be run to correctly format it for integration with the map.

As stated previously, the prototype aims to redesign the map into a narrative text. Following discussion with Ziggy and Brigette it was agreed that narrative stories should directly relate to the map’s data layers. This serves both as a method for introducing the various map layers while making the connection to what’s happening on the ground in Bushwick with government datasets that often appear abstract and difficult to understand to the general public. Three stories introduce the map: the Rheingold rezoning, Colony 1206 and 98 Linden. These stories attempt to highlight processes that impact local communities as a way to spread awareness around issues that are being faced by residents when they are facing forces relating to hyper-gentrification and urban development.


North West Bushwick Community Mapping Project – Site Improvements

the site can be viewed live at:

the code is available at:

Chris Henrick, Gabriel Gianordoli, Daniel Mastretta and Namreta Kumar

In Collaboration with NWMC, Daniel, Gabriel, Chris and Namreta

In order to create a more efficient communication method for organizations and housing interest groups working within and outside of Bushwick  we will work to improve the current NWBC website’s interface and user design.

As we suggested in our presentation much of the website lacks context and by understanding the information and the needs of the community we hope to develop a narrative and build a better experience. We each have specific interests in developing a stronger narrative, but as our feedback suggested it is important for us to narrow out focus to the audience of this community and lend our perspectives to those solutions.

We had developed the following loosely structured timeline:

Week One: Visual Language – “Landing Page of Maps,” i.e. contextualize map when you first open it; Merging visuals from the newsletter and the website

Week Two: UI – Developing User Interaction of Maps; Wireframe website

Week Three: UX – Use case scenarios

However after the feedback we received, our next steps are to meet with the NWBC group again to further discuss and develop the website’s functionality strategically on their narrative interests and their development goals.

gentrification – communication – dislocation

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 – Week 4:

Tom Angotti‘s New York for Sale outlines the importance of community and communication in the changing landscapes of real estate and urban landscapes. In many ways New York, here, acts like a case study for the global climate. The central theme that is outlined within the Chapter, and in much of the book, is the role of community in this shifting landscape. Some question(s) that it leads to is: How can the shift in community be defined and how does that definition re-engage with the city? Furthermore, these questions rely on three presumptuously under defined terms: gentrification, communication and dislocation.

Communication is the crux to understanding how these terms have redefined our engagement with the urban landscape and how we understand how gentrification and dislocation define the city. In 5 Things to do About Gentrification, Angotti speaks about the importance of communication to understanding how gentrification directly effects New York. Globally, however, communication takes on another role and meaning. As the global landscape becomes smaller and commerce shifts out on greater scales entire industries define new cities. This transnational city phenomenon has defined much of Asia’s development in the last few years. These cities build overnight, as if rolled out of a LEGO box, cannot communicate – community, culture, self-identity, etc. Langfang in the Hebei Provence of the Peoples Republic of China, lends itself as a case study for the redefinition of communication in the public-private partnership paradigm. While the private industrialization of this provence has established a “modern” city overnight, it’s lack of true public engagement has created a hollowed space. On this large scale, the privatization of the city has disassociated the entire public space as a another construct. So, how does the shifting space for communication re-define community?

Is that the cost of gentrification? Why do we often personalize gentrification? As a relatively new term it informs too much our understanding of the urban landscape, but does not actually hold the meaning for everyone affected by it. In cities, like New York and San Francisco gentrification directly defines how the city is reshaped within it’s borders, but what if those borders inflate and expand? Mexico City, DF in Mexico exemplifies how expansion assumes the privileges of technology’s new commute. Gentrification in Mexico City has redefined the core of the city as the blight; or in other words the shift here is not presumptuously where the opportunity is, but out to where land can be “owned.” This case study of the urban landscape is not limited to Mexico (expanded reading: The Endless City: The Urban Age Project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society [Ricky Burdett, Deyan Sudjic]) , but this sprawl is the the more commonly practiced side effect of gentrification than New York. This re-organization of the city and re-definition of the city lines also changes the assumptions of the private and public city line. While the city’s ownership attempts to pull residents into it’s center, it’s lack of organization and public interest leaves it in chaos.

This chaos is very different from desertion and dislocation. Cities like Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and New Delhi, where expansion is defining the re-population of suburbs is in direct contrast to not only London, San Francisco and New York, but moreover for cities of desertion like Camden, NJ and Detroit, MI. These cities represent how dislocation redefining the lines of gentrification. Here the shift in communication is re-defining re-engagement with the city. Detroit as a ghost city, while undefined, exemplifies how communities are defining the lines of public and private. In addition Detroit questions the third undeniable sphere of influence – governing authorities.

These “cities” local, national or global are defining these terms of engagement for the spaces we inhabit. How do we begin to identify with out new spaces? And what can we learn from our ghosts, ruins, and definitions?