Screenshot via Urban Scratch Off
Screenshot via Urban Scratch Off

Reveal How New York Has Changed With This 'Scratch-Off' Map

Screenshot via Urban Scratch Off
Screenshot via Urban Scratch Off

Cities never look the same for more than a few years in a row. Landmarks disappear, elevated trains give way to streetcars and subways, and old industrial sites get rehabbed, to name a few common changes. Over the past century, a fair amount has changed in New York City, as evidenced by a new application that compares the modern city to its 1924 past.

Urbanist and data visualization enthusiast Chris Whong created Urban Scratch Off, a simple site with two layers of maps—one from 1924 and one from today—that allows users to erase one layer to reveal the imagery beneath. While much of the city’s broad design looks quite similar in structure to its 1924 incarnation, some infrastructure projects have made big impacts.

Whong’s original concept was to visualize the impact the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway had on the communities in its path, and the level of demolition that occurred to make way for the highway. But once you start scratching off parts of the city to reveal the historical urban fabric, it’s hard to stop at just the path of one highway. So he made it into a city-wide visual of urban development over 90 years.

Since 1924, waterfronts have changed (Battery Park City, a landfill site in downtown Manhattan, was completed in 1976), stadiums have moved (the current Yankee Stadium is a block north of the original, and the original home of the Brooklyn Dodgers is now an apartment building), and major airports have been erected (JFK opened as New York International Airport in 1948). Just draw your mouse over a location to see what it looked like before versus what it looks like now.

Whong hopes to add points of interest in the future, because without a search function, it’s a little hard to find specific places unless you’re super familiar with the geography. Play with it for yourself here. It’s like a virtual lottery scratcher, except you don’t lose any money.

[h/t: CityLab]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Air Quality in American National Parks and Big Cities Is Roughly the Same
iStock
iStock

National parks usually have more vegetation, wildlife, and open spaces than urban areas, but the two don't look much different when it comes to air quality. As City Lab reports, a new study published in Science Advances found that U.S. national parks and the nation's largest cities have comparable ozone levels.

For their research, scientists from Iowa State University and Cornell University looked at air pollution data collected over 24 years from 33 national parks and the 20 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Their results show that average ozone concentrations were "statistically indistinguishable" between the two groups from 1990 to 2014.

On their own, the statistics look grim for America's protected areas, but they're actually a sign that environmental protection measures are working. Prior to the 1990s, major cities had higher ozone concentrations than national parks. At the start of the decade, the federal government passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments in an effort to fight urban air pollution, and ozone levels have been declining ever since.

The average ozone in national parks did increase in the 1990s, but then in 1999 the EPA enacted the Regional Haze Rule, which specifically aims to improve air quality and visibility in national parks. Ozone levels in national parks are now back to the levels they were at in 1990.

Ground-level ozone doesn't just make America's national parks harder to see: It can also damage plants and make it difficult for human visitors to breathe. Vehicles, especially gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are some of the biggest producers of the pollutant.

[h/t City Lab]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
iStock
iStock

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios