Testimony on Int 2158-2020: Designating a geospatial information officer

To: NYC Council – Committee on Technology
From: Zhi Keng He, Assistant Director of the NYC Civic Innovation Lab

Re: Int 2158-2020

Watch the video on the City Council Website, fast forward to 1:36:25 to hear Zhi Keng He’s unabridged testimony

I am glad to be here with my former professors and top GIS experts as I got my undergraduate degree from Hunter College. I would like to thank you, Borough President Brewer, and council members for allowing me to testify and introducing this law.

We support the bill to create the position of a geospatial information officer since there is great importance in the ability for our government to know… not only what assets and resources are available but WHERE they are.

From my first experience of NYC spatial data, with tax lot information, to hearing about NYC’s mapping of underground infrastructure, having WELL MANAGED and UPDATED spatial data is imperative. Especially when our built and natural environments interact with each other all the time. We want to see a strategy to put into action key datasets but make sure the data is used carefully, not to deepen injustices. Lastly, make sure datasets that can be publicized be put onto the Open Data Platform and built into accessible and useful tools.

At BetaNYC we have a fellowship program and host events to train fellows and the general public in using Open Data. As new datasets have been released, the amount of spatial data has also increased. Linking records by place has always been a priority to bring to light to inequity in existing issues, delivery of services, and maintenance of infrastructure.

In the last few years, emergency crises affecting our city — such as the pandemic, flash floods and hurricanes— has only HEIGHTENED the city’s need for WELL managed geospatial information.

Datasets on flooding, air quality, city facilities, open spaces, streets, and business are interconnected by PLACE. Knowing where they are is crucial to our ability to respond to a range of issues from quality of life, emergencies, and long term inequities.

In order to adapt into the future as a leader, our City must create this position with the responsibility over the management and use of our geospatial information.