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NYS ITS GIS Program Office

Geographic Information Systems Clearinghouse

Geographic Information Systems Technology News

The Newsletter of the New York State
GIS Coordination Program

A Service of the NYS Office For Technology
NYS GIS Clearinghouse:
Fall/Winter 2000
Volume 2, Issue 2

NYS Center for Geographic Information Established!

Director of State Operations, James Natoli, has announced the creation of the New York State Center for Geographic Information. The Center will be housed within the Office for Technology with the NYS GIS Coordinating Body serving as its steering body. The Center is being established to: Staffing for the Center is now being assembled, and by this fall, we anticipate that 10 staff will be in place. The Center's major units include the Clearinghouse, which was recently moved from the State Library, Digital Orthoimagery, Framework Data Development, Data Accuracy, and Education/ Government Liaison. The Center will be embarking on a number of projects relating to the direction provided by the NYS GIS Coordinating Body and the Office for Technology. The major project goals are captured in five areas:

The Center and its staff look forward to working with GIS users in New York State to make this initiative a success

Development of the Interactive Mapping Gateway Continues

The Interactive Mapping Gateway now features a robust application designed to provide convenient access to an enhanced digital orthophotography data set. The site has been moved, along with the rest of the learinghouse, from the original host at the State Education Department, to the Office for Technology under a new GIS URL

Moving the site allowed for an upgrade in functionality. Building on a strong set of geographic guides, the site now features zip codes as a searchable data set. Latitude and longitude data is now reported to four decimal places, matching the accuracy of the underlying data and providing increased utility for agencies such as the NYS Department of Health and the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service. Both groups actively use the site to extract locational data through the site which has proven to be a fast and efficient means of data collection for point features.

In addition to viewing, printing, and downloading user-produced maps, the site features file download capability, both through the mapping interface and via access to file directories. Cooperative members seeking to use the data locally in their own GIS applications are able to access the downloadable directories at the Cooperative Test Site section of the gateway opening page Opening the direct download guides the users through a series of map images to access the data files. Bulk downloads can be achieved via HTML using NetVampire

For more information on the Interactive Mapping Gateway, please contact Tom Hart at

New York State's Breast Cancer Incidence by Zip Code

In April 2000 the New York State Department of Health released a set of maps of breast cancer incidence by ZIP Code for New York State, the first in a series of such releases anticipated in 2000. The goal of the project is to provide New Yorkers with information about cancer, guide future research on the causes of cancer, and improve existing cancer prevention programs. Later phases of the project will incorporate information about risk factors, aspects of a person's lifestyle, medical history or environmental issues that may increase his or her chance of getting cancer.

The release included a statewide incidence map, incidence maps for each county, an index containing the incidence data used to generate the maps, and textual material on breast cancer and how to read the maps. The maps facilitate both the lookup of information about individual ZIP Codes as well as highlighting areas with statistically significant elevations. A method called the spatial scan statistic was used to determine the statistically significant areas. This method uses the likelihood function to determine the approximate areas that are most likely not attributable to chance.

Considerable attention was paid to each of the design elements of the map. The color scheme, symbolization, and category breaks all reflect recent advances and innovations within the field of cartography and GIS.

For further information, please contact Frank Boscoe at 518-474-2255 or by e-mail at

Gathering Input from State and Local Government

The input of State and local government is very important to the successful establishment of the NYS Center for Geographic Information. Accordingly, the Center will be meeting with State agencies and local government around the State. These meetings will highlight how GIS can better serve an Agency's primary business needs and how the Center can assist with this process. The meetings will also serve to identify opportunities for coordination within and between NYS government, while improving access to GIS technology across New York. Participants will be introduced to GIS technology, OFT's GIS program, and the variety of current GIS uses across the State. Finally, the sessions will focus on an organization's particular GIS needs and potential uses.

These meetings will provide an excellent forum for executive management and department heads to learn more about GIS and its implications for use in their organization. Additionally, the meetings will provide a conduit for cross communication between State agencies and local governments. Furthermore, by working in concert with the NYS GIS Coordination Program's Local Government Advisory Workgroup, these meetings will assist Workgroup activities by promoting GIS awareness between local governments across New York.

An executive report will be developed to summarize the general conclusions from these meetings and identify GIS needs for New York State. This information will be used to direct future efforts of the NYS Center for Geographic Information and identify opportunities for coordinating GIS development activities. Once completed, the report will be available on-line at the NYS GIS Clearinghouse.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Novak at or 518-486-3580.

GIS at Work in Western New York

Three years ago, the Division of Environmental Studies at Alfred University hired a geographer for the first time. The Division now maintains a dedicated GIS Lab, and up to 25 people each year study Introductory and Advanced GIS. Although Alfred University has no "geography" or "GIS" majors per se, their students use GIS: 1) as a tool to complement their independent research; 2) to improve their spatial skills and gain a spatial perspective as they analyze and interpret environmental data; and 3) to acquire practical computer-based skills that make them more efficient and competitive environmental scientists.

Student-based research is a significant component of the program. Using GIS, students' projects have covered a spatial scale from the campus itself up to a regional level. The hiking trails across Pine Hill (approximately 100 forested acres behind the University) have been identified with GPS, and improved trail maps are being produced. Hydrologic mapping of the Canacadea Creek watershed has complemented the groundwater sampling and water chemistry analyses they have been doing for years. In northeastern Allegany County, they are helping the Canasarega Creek Watershed Project (CCWP) create maps of infrastructure, slope stability, and flood plains, as part of their economic development plan.

Alfred University's big project this summer has involved trying to find new oil from old wells. Funded in part by the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York State Oil Producers Association (NYSOPA), and the Otis Eastern Drilling Company, two students have been mapping geological characteristics of oil-bearing sandstone units from throughout the Southern Tier. At this point, they are specifically analyzing the patterns of permeability and porosity found in southern Allegany County. NYSERDA and NYSOPA know these maps will assist them in any future plans for regional tertiary oil production.

For further information, please contact Diana Sinton at (607) 871-2604 or by e-mail at

What's been Happening with the Standards and Data Coordination Work Group?

The Standards and Data Coordination Work Group has worked on several activities this year. The work group completed an assessment of principle GIS data sets in New York State. The assessment includes data set scale, completeness, needs, issues, primary attributes, and known links to on-line metadata. The final report is located on-line at

Secondary custodians in the Data Sharing Cooperative now have an easy way to notify and return data set improvements to primary custodian of the data sets. The on-line form can be found at the state GIS Clearinghouse at Data Sharing Cooperative members are reminded that such notification is a requirement of the Data Sharing Cooperative.

A procedure has been developed for submitting suggested GIS standards. More details, including the standards approval procedure, can be found at

As agencies and municipalities continue to deal with shrinking resources, GIS partnerships are becoming more common. A "Partnership Summaries" section has been added to the state GIS Clearinghouse ( ) to educate others about existing GIS partnerships and to invoke interest in forming new, similar partnerships. In addition to a brief summary of the partnership, basic information provided includes participants, resource contributions, time frame, deliverables, and contact information.

NYS Digital Tax Mapping Project

Tax Maps are perhaps the most essential of all assessment tools primarily used by local government to maintain current inventory of all parcels in a city, town or village. The Assessment Improvement Act of 1971 was enacted to have each county prepare tax maps. Section 503 of the Real Property Tax Law also requires the State Board of Real Property Services to establish standards, specifications and procedures for the preparation and maintenance of these tax maps.

The Office of Real Property Services is required to assist and advise municipalities with tax mapping projects and programs. The process of converting the traditional paper tax maps to a computerized tax map is known as a digital conversion. To date, 30 counties, and their cities and towns, have recognized the potential of GIS and have contracted to convert traditional paper tax maps to a digital environment.

For more information about digital tax map projects in New York State, contact Ross Testa at the Office of Real Property Services at 518-486-4518 or

New Training Program for GIS

One of the new projects being undertaken by the New York State Center for Geographic Information is the establishment of a training program. The Center is working closely with the Education Workgroup of the NYS GIS Coordination Program to identify training needs across the State and develop the program content.

To begin, the training program will offer general topic workshops that will be held in a variety of locations around the State. Workshop topics being considered incl u d e; Introduction to Digital Ortho Imagery, Fundamentals of Global Positioning Systems, Cartographic Design, Geodetic Control and Georeferencing, Geocoding Basics, and the ever popular, 'Creating Meta Data. ' These workshops will be half-day or full-day, free seminars open to State and local government. Depending on enrollment, these sessions will be opened to the public.

In addition to general topic workshops, the Center will institute a technical training program designed for specific GIS software products. OFT will contract vendors, provide training facilities and offer courses at reduced rates to State and local government. Topics being considered include; Introduction to ArcView, Introduction to MapInfo, Developing Internet Based Mapping Applications, Advanced ArcView, Advanced MapInfo, etc...

The first training workshop "Introduction to Digital Ortho Imagery" will be offered in November. Look on the NYS GIS Clearinghouse website this fall for details on how to attend this training and find out about additional offerings. For more information contact Elizabeth Novak at

A special thanks to the contributors to this issue:
Diana Sinton (Alfred University), Tom Hart & Frank Boscoe (DOH), Cheryl Benjamin (DOT), Ross Testa (ORPS), Bruce Oswald and Elizabeth Novak (OFT).
Associate Editor: Sharon Oskam     Editor: Dawn M. Hoffman