A New Tool to Develop Visions for an Ecologically Sustainable New York City

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This July a new internet tool became available: Visionmaker NYC. Visionmaker NYC is a web-based simulation platform that allows users to examine and manipulate urban ecosystems throughout NYC and see how their decisions will affect environmental performance using real-world data. The platform was built using thousands of parameters and dozens of map overlays.

By geographically matching an 18th-century map of New York City’s landscape to the modern cityscape, combing through historical and archaeological records, and applying modern principles of ecology and computer modeling — the forests of Times Square, the meadows of Harlem, and the wetlands of downtown come to life in the Visionmaker NYC Project. On a block-by-block basis, you can use this site to learn what the urban landscape looked like 400 years ago, how the environment has transformed, and ways that historical ecological understanding can inform sustainability.

Why build this tool? Hurricane Sandy was a deadly reminder of the risks coastal storms pose for New York City.  As a large area with a dense urban matrix, resiliency planning in New York City is critical for millions of people (and species) for whom the area is home.  Understanding resiliency in NYC will strongly influence the success of any management actions taken on the part of the NYC government.

Visionmaker NYC is a tool that enables people to use the Internet to develop and share climate-resilient designs (“visions”) based on realistic models of environmental performance: water, carbon, biodiversity, and population.  A vision represents a user’s ideas about the best configuration of ecosystems, lifestyle choices, and relevant climate scenarios to use in planning for the future.  Visions will be solicited from people in the community, students, policymakers and other stakeholders to come up with realistic ideas for resiliency planning in NYC.

Interested in exploring New York City ecosystems in the past, present, and future? Visit the web tool, visionmaker.nyc.