New York City Opens PLUTO Tax Lot Dataset
Yesterday morning, New York City’s Department of City Planning quietly removed the paywall from one of the most-demanded city datasets: PLUTO. PLUTO (Primary Land Use Tax Lot Output) contains detailed information about every piece of land in the city. Tax assessments, historic districts, year built, number of units, lot size, etc.
Why Access to PLUTO Matters
Access to this treasure trove of public information formerly cost $300 per borough or $1,500 for all five. Urban research institutes, community groups, nonprofits and planning firms had to pay the city each year for access to the data, but had to stay compliant with a 14-page license agreement that, among other things, forbids them from sharing the data or putting any part of it on the internet.
Despite the city’s groundbreaking open data legislation in 2012 that requires agencies to open their data, the planning department had claimed that much of PLUTO was aggregated from other agencies, and the source datasets were individually available for free via other means. The open data law does not require agencies to disclose information they get from other agencies. According to a New York World article earlier this year, the planning department receives between $50k and $80k per year on the sale of PLUTO licenses.
OASIS, a project at the City University of New York, has incorporated PLUTO data into its online mapping tool through a special license with the planning department, but data is only available for one lot at a time in a pop-up info window.
PLUTO Promises Fresh Apps
As with all open data, the value lies in its newfound reach. Prior to yesterday, PLUTO was limited to use in those organizations who could afford it. Now that it has been released, anyone interested in crunching the data can have access to it. We know we’ll see it manifested in maps, infographics, web/mobile apps and more.
Urban planners, open data enthusiasts and civic hackers have been buzzing away on social media (https://twitter.com/search?q=NYC%20pluto&src=typd ) about the liberation. BetaNYC, the New York chapter of Code for America’s Brigade Program, is planning a PLUTO hack night & celebration in the coming weeks. One proposal: come dressed as your favorite tax lot!