The Northwest Bushwick Community Map is meant to be a resource for local community organizations and tenants rights groups to easily access disparate information around land use, housing and urban development for the neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn, NY. It is also intended to be a tool to inform NYC residents about what kinds of indicators may be used to predict new urban development and help prevent displacement of residents in their own neighborhoods. Recently I had the opportunity to work with the original author of the map and some fellow designers in the MFA DT program at Parsons to improve the map’s design and functionality.
In the fall of 2014 two members of the Northwest Bushwick Community Group (NWB), Michael ‘Ziggy’ Mintz and Brigette Blood, met with several graduate students from MFA DT to discuss improvements to the beta-version of the map. Previously, the map used vanilla Leaflet.js with GeoJSON data created from NYC’s MapPLUTO and Department of Buildings permits open data. However the original map lacked a cohesive design and was slow in regards to loading of the data due to technical issues.
To improve the interactivity of the map I chose to host the data on CartoDB and use the CartoDB.js library to handle loading, styling and toggling of the map’s data layers. When the user selects layers, CartoCSS and SQL code is passed to CartoDB to retrieve and style the data being rendered on the map. Hosting the data on CartoDB also allows for processing of the data in the CartoDB dashboard using PostgreSQL and PostGIS. This is beneficial as SQL scripts can be run to automate the processing of new data when the map needs to be updated.
Besides Cartodb.js and Odyssey.js we added some other features to the map to make it more useful for the Bushwick community. As there is a large Latino presence in Bushwick it was imperative to have the text of the map’s UI and the overall website toggle between English and Spanish. Additionally the non-map parts of the site were redesigned responsively using CSS Media Queries so that the other content such as “Get Help” can be easily viewed on a mobile device.
In the future NWB plans on adding participatory map data they’ve collected on housing vacancy and new development as well as stories of people who have experienced being displaced or harassed by their landlords. These features may be integrated with the current map or developed separately, but either way CartoDB and Odyssey will allow for the further creation of customized interactive map content to be readily achievable.