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					Westchester County GIS
  Department of Information Technology

 Mapping Applications

Schools and Communities


  Westchester Science and Engineering Fair
            October 20th, 2006
               Tarrytown, NY

                                      Michaelian Office Building
                                      148 Martine Avenue
                                      White Plains, New York

During the summer 2006, Westchester County GIS began
the design and development of a program to offer basic
mapping and GIS capabilities to schools and community
based organizations in the county.       This initiative, called
MASC (Mapping Applications for Schools and Communities),
is intended to advance mapping and geography concepts in
K – 12 and support basic mapping needs and decision-
making for not-for-profits and civic groups.

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer
hardware and software system that is used to store, display,
analyze, and map information. Geographers, planners, land
developers, real estate agents, utility companies, and
municipal officials all use these systems. In fact, modern
planning cannot move forward without these systems and
those trained to run them. For example, a local government
might use a GIS to evaluate alternative locations for roads,
landfills, or other facilities. Using the GIS, such topics as
population distribution, traffic movement, land availability,
real estate prices, environmental hazards, soil types, and
flood zones could be analyzed together to help the
government make an informed choice.

GIS is a rapidly growing technological field that incorporates
graphical features with tabular data in order to assess real-
world problems. What is now the GIS field began around
1960, with the discovery that maps could be programmed
using simple code and then stored in a computer allowing
for future modification when necessary. This was a welcome
change from the era of hand cartography when maps had to
be painstakingly created by hand; even small changes
required the creation of a new map. The earliest version of a
GIS was known as computer cartography and involved
simple linework to represent land features. From that
evolved the concept of overlaying different mapped features

on top of each other to determine patterns and causes of
spatial phenomenon.

The capabilities of GIS are a far cry from the simple
beginnings of computer cartography. At the simplest level,
GIS can be thought of as a high-tech equivalent of a map.
However, not only can paper maps be produced far quicker
and more efficiently, the storage of data in an easily
accessible digital format enables complex analysis and
modeling not previously possible. The reach of GIS expands
into all disciplines and has been used for such widely ranged
problems as prioritizing sensitive species habitat to
determining optimal real estate locations for new

The key word to this technology is Geography - this usually
means that the data (or at least some proportion of the
data) is spatial, in other words, data that is in some way
referenced to locations on the earth. Coupled with this data
is usually data known as attribute data. Attribute data
generally defined as additional information, which can then
be tied to spatial data. An example of this would be schools.
The actual location of the schools is the spatial data.
Additional data such as the school name, level of education
taught, school capacity would make up the attribute data. It
is the partnership of these two data types that enables GIS
to be such an effective problem solving tool.


Each MASC project will have its own unique aspects, but
relative to GIS, there are two distinct components:

   Data Collection: County GIS staff will process address
    data, such as ‘148 Martine Ave, White Plains, NY
    10601’ into X/Y coordinates. Additional attributes can
    be collected, but at a minimum each record must
    include an address. Alternatively, if the capability to

    record a Latitude/Longitude exists, a spreadsheet
    containing those values can also be submitted. It
    should also be specified what layers should be included
    in the map. GIS staff will help assist in this step based
    on the user needs.

   Data and Map Processing: Once the data is created
    and determined to be complete, it will be electronically
    sent to and processed by GIS staff. A map (8x11) will
    be generated and emailed in JPG format back to the
    user. Map elements and other mapping options are
    outlined on the MASC website.


For more information about the MASC project, visit the
MASC website at or
contact David Blake at or at
(914) 995-5605.

             Example Project: Willow Tree Mapping

Project Title: Willow Tree Mapping
Map Creator:

Steve Brown
Harrison High School
Harrison, New York


The goal of this project is to map the location of willow trees in a residential area of
Harrison, New York

Data Collection:

      Street Address (required)
      City (required)
      State (required)
      Zipcode (required)
      Height of tree (shadow triangulation/approximate feet).
      Diameter of tree
      Distance to closest water source (approximate):


      Can willow trees be found more in residential areas or natural/open areas?
      Are willow tress found adjacent to other tree types? If so, what kind?
      Classify a willow tree: Hardwood or softwood?
      Are water sources near by?

Advanced Analysis:

      What does the term “riparian” mean?
      Do willow trees make good wildlife habitat? Explain.
      What does the term “hydric” soil mean?
      Would you expect to find willow trees on steep slopes? Explain

Willow Tree Map

                 Example Project: Graffiti Mapping

Project Title: Graffiti Mapping
Map Creator:

Ben Mapper
Citizens for a Safe Downtown
White Plains, New York


The goal of this project is to map the locations of graffiti on buildings and other
community facilities in White Plains, New York.

Data Collection:

The following attributes can be collected when mapping buildings:

      Street Address (required)
      City (required)
      State (required)
      Zipcode (required)
      Land Use (residential, business, etc)
      Business Name
      Graffiti Tag (artist)
      Date of Graffiti (if known)

The following attributes can be collected when mapping non-building features such
as bridges, signs, vehicles, etc.:

      Latitude (required)
      Longitude (required)
      Feature Type: (Bridge, Sign, vehicle, other)
      Graffiti Tag (artist)


      Where are the highest concentrations of graffiti in the community?
      What kind of community features receives the most graffiti?
      Are certain graffiti artists more common than others? In certain areas of the

Advanced Analysis:

     Do other environmental factors such as lighting, vehicle or pedestrian traffic, etc.
      appear to effect the location of the graffiti?
     What can be done with this data to help prevent graffiti? What other community
      organizations should be involved in the discussion?

Graffiti Location Map