Data in the Public Right of Way

The number of street trees. Restaurant letter grades. Locations of fire hydrants. New Yorkers encounter these data points every day, but may not realize the City keeps datasets on these and many other elements that make up the urban landscape.

Behind every fire hydrant is an engineer at the Department of Environmental Protection, monitoring data on water levels from upstate reservoirs to make sure firefighters are adequately equipped in emergency situations.

Behind every tree lining a sidewalk is a community volunteer who took the time to count it and record observations about species, perceived health, damage to surroundings, and other vital signs. NYC Parks uses this data from the Street Tree Census to make decisions about how to maintain New York City’s urban forest.

Behind every letter grade that hangs in a restaurant window is an inspector who keeps food establishments accountable to the people who eat in them. Blue A’s and green B’s are a familiar part of New Yorkers’ dining routine. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene publishes data not only on these letter grades, but also on specific violations resulting from restaurant inspections. This public data encourages restaurants to create the best possible experience for their customers and allows the City to take necessary action when unsafe or unsanitary conditions are not corrected.

These are just a few examples of the many ways the work of New York City government is reflected in the public right of way. Wherever the City is at work, there is often an open dataset behind it.

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