Charting Green Spaces in New York City

Me in Green Map System’s Office!

With a only a week under my belt, and with new experience in New Jersey transit and the New York subway system, I am excited to have started my first true city experience with Green Map System.

Green Map System, is an environmental nonprofit which encourages inclusive participation and knowledge generation about green spaces through maps. More specifically, the organization encourages active involvement in parklands, nature preserves, and local agriculture while also helping communities address areas that raise concerns, such as waste dumps, disaster areas, noise pollution, and more. Outside of maps, the organization works on local projects such as a community garden, called Siempre Verde, developed an energy passive house in Brooklyn, and encourages bike transportation and waste recycling throughout the city.

In my role, I am helping Green Map System as it transitions some of its Green Mapping technology and launches a new website to encourage further participation and alternative methods of projecting environmental data. I am specifically applying the skills I learned this past year in my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coursework to carry over Green Map System’s iconography and descriptions to new maps on an open platform called ArcGIS. This is a critical transition as it will allow participants to use the maps in new ways, including visual customization and data analytics. I was really excited that I was able to start working on GIS right away and that I have even worked with individuals from ESRI, the Environmental Systems Research Institute, who have been guiding me through the GIS development process. In addition, I am helping catalog and share stories of mapping projects from the past by inputting details about them on Green Map System’s story page on their website. Through this work, I am beginning to learn how technology and business communication skills can play in the environmental nonprofit space.

Tabling with Green Map System’s Founder at the People Power Planet Party – Image by Erik McGregor

Finally, I have represented Green Map System at tabling and community events, where I have begun learning about the Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods, where Green Map NYC is based. One thing I specifically learned was how gardens are often created in urban communities. While at a street event called, the People Power Planet Party, Green Map System’s founder pointed to a garden across the street from us, which was filled with vibrant flowers and trees. She told me that only twenty years prior the site was a vacated lot, where individuals would meet for illicit activity. Fortunately, neighborhood residents saw value in the space and transformed it into a verdant and inclusive garden for meetings and meditation. Clearly, understanding the geography of the region granted me a new perspective to the importance of this green space. Ultimately, I am very excited to learn more about the geography of New York City and beyond, and to learn more of how I can apply my skills – and new ones! – to foster community engagement in green spaces with Green Map System.