Points Unknown - Resources

Here you will find a list of GIS and mapping resources, including data, tutorials, books, and blogs. Although this is by no means a complete or comprehensive list we hope it will provide guidance, ideas, inspiration, and help you in your mapping work.

Data Sources

Data resources at Columbia University:

  • Digital Social Science Center (DSSC): in Lehman Library is the chief GIS Data Library for the overall University. They purchase and maintain their own collection of data, including historical datasets for New York City, and have Data Librarians who are able to help students in both finding and working with geospatial data. The DSSC is located in Lehman Library in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at 118th Street and Amsterdam, and is open to all Columbia Students with a valid ID. Please refer to their website for hours.

  • GeoData@Columbia: hosted by the DSSC, this portal provides access to geographic data from the leading universities of the world.

  • SEDAC / CIESIN: The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) is a center within the Earth Institute at Columbia University. CIESIN works at the intersection of the social, natural, and information sciences, and specializes in on-line data and information management, spatial data integration and training, and interdisciplinary research related to human interactions in the environment. Along with NASA they produce the Gridded Population of the World dataset, which models the distribution of human population (counts and densities) on a continuous global surface. This is probably the most complete and accurate global population dataset in the world.

New York City data:

  • NYC Open Data Portal:

    • Building footprints

    • NYC Planimetrics: A comprehensive database including boardwalks, building footprints, cooling towers, curbs, elevation data, hydro structures, hydrography, medians, open spaces, parks, parking lots, pavement edges, plazas, railroads, railroad structures, retaining walls, roadbeds, shorelines, sidewalks, sidewalk centerlines, swimming pools, transport structures, under construction.

    • 311 complaints

    • Hurricane evacuation zones

    • Hydrography

  • BYTES of the BIG APPLE: datasets by the NYC Department of City Planning including the following:

    • PLUTO: building lots, including data for zoning, special purpose districts, land use, built and lot areas, year built, etc.

    • NYC GIS Zoning Features: zoning districts, special purpose districts, special purpose district subdistricts, limited height districts, commercial overlay zones, and zoning map amendments.

    • LION: A single line street base map representing the city’s streets and other linear geographic features such as shorelines, surface rail lines and boardwalks, along with feature names and address ranges for each addressable street segment.

    • Administrative and Political Districts: including boroughs, community districts, political and election districts and school, fire, health and police areas.

    • Neighborhood tabulation areas

    • FRESH Food Stores Zoning Boundaries

    • Inclusionary Housing

    • Sidewalk Cafes

    • NYC Public Accessible Waterfront

    • NYCDP Manhattan Bike Counts

    • Hurricane evacuation zones

    • Other

  • NYC 3D Building Model

  • Citibike data, including stations and trips.

  • Taxi and Limousine Commission: yellow and green taxi trip and some “for-hire” vehicle data (Uber, Lyft, etc). Note, this “for-hire” data is very limited and should not be considered representative.

  • MTA:

New York State Data:

Topography Data:

U.S. Data:

International Data:



  • Design for Information, Isabel Meirelles

  • Semiology of Graphics, Jacques Bertin

  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte

  • Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte

  • The Map Reader, Martin Dodge (editor)

  • Drawing the Line: Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversies, Mark Monmonier

  • Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographic Information Systems, John Pickles

  • Data Flow: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design, Robert Klanten (editor)

  • Data Flow 2: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design, Robert Klanten (editor)

  • Atlas of Shrinking Cities, Byer Elke

  • Petrochemical America, Richard Misrach and Kate Orff

  • Data Points, Nathan Yau

  • Visualizing Information for Advocacy, Tactical Technology Creative

Blogs & Websites

Critical GIS:

Maps and data visualization in journalism:

Journalism Resources:

Data visualization blogs:

Collections of Maps:

Data visualization agencies:

Online Color Tools:

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