Using Digital Maps To Study Disaster Preparedness and History

In September, when millions of iPhone users downloaded iOS 6 and found Google Maps replaced by Apple Maps, it became clear how reliant people have become on digital maps.

Suddenly, a large slice of the smartphone generation could not find a certain restaurant or a friend's apartment.

It's no surprise that digital maps now play a huge role in everyday tasks, but they also figure large in more serious pursuits like disaster cleanup and rebuilding.

This week on WNYC's New Tech City, host Manoush Zomorodi speaks with Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, about mapping before and after Sandy.

Plus, a visit to the map room at the New York Public Library. Cartographers there are working with NYPL Labs to put old maps online and make them useable in the digital age thanks to a process known called "map warping."

A map that shows part of Lower Manhattan circa 1852 over a Google Map showing today's streets, like those leading to the Brooklyn Bridge, which was completed in 1883.
A map that shows part of Lower Manhattan circa 1852 over a Google Map showing today's streets, like those leading to the Brooklyn Bridge, which was completed in 1883. ( Matt Knutzen/NYPL )
A map showing the buildings of the East Village circa 1852 superimposed on what is now Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
A map showing the buildings of the East Village circa 1852 superimposed on what is now Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. ( Matt Knutzen/NYPL )
A "warped" map that shows Orchard Beach, which was completed in 1938, superimposed over Pelham Bay circa 1892. The beach was created by Robert Moses by filling in part of the bay with sand.
A "warped" map that shows Orchard Beach, which was completed in 1938, superimposed over Pelham Bay circa 1892. The beach was created by Robert Moses by filling in part of the bay with sand. ( Matt Knutzen/NYPL )
A map of the World Trade Center site, which also shows the buildings that were at that location in 1852.
A map of the World Trade Center site, which also shows the buildings that were at that location in 1852. ( Matt Knutzen/NYPL )
A map that shows which blocks were destroyed in the Manhattan fires of 1835 and 1845.
A map that shows which blocks were destroyed in the Manhattan fires of 1835 and 1845. ( Matt Knutzen/NYPL )
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