The Community Mapping Assistance Project
Putting the Nonprofit Community on the Map
Hundreds of New York nonprofit groups and residents have benefited from a powerful mapping tool through the work of the Community Mapping Assistance Project (CMAP), a nonprofit GIS service launched in 1997.
CMAP is a project of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), New York State's largest nonprofit research and advocacy group. Formed 27 years ago by Ralph Nader and student activists, NYPIRG works to involve citizens in government decision making on many environmental, consumer, and good government issues. NYPIRG's goal for CMAP is to use computer mapping technology to help progressive nonprofit groups analyze issues and make a more powerful case for their causes.
At right: CMAP's CouncilFinder mapping service uses to enable users to search for their district by address, district number, or name of Councilmember.
Several foundations, such as the Booth Ferris Foundation, Altman Foundation, Long Island Community Foundation, and Rockefeller Family Fund, have supported CMAP's work. The Conservation Technology Support Program (CTSP) and Esri's Conservation Program have also been essential in providing the resources CMAP needs to develop a robust and effective mapping service.
Esri's Conservation Program (ECP) has supported an ambitious effort by CMAP to expand the mapping tools it provides to nonprofit groups onto the Web. ECP's software grants of MapObjects Internet Map Server (IMS) and related applications have enabled CMAP to develop several interactive mapping projects, the most recent example being "Who Represents Me"a Web site developed to enhance NYPIRG's voter education work.
"Who Represents Me" is a new Web-based service to enable anyone with a New York City address to easily find and contact the public officials who represent them at all levels of government. "No more hunting through phone books or searching for different Web sites to find out who represents you in New York City," says Chris Meyer, NYPIRG's executive director. "Now NYPIRG is providing 'one-stop-shopping' access to government at the local, State, and federal levels. This new Internet site will enable our members, other activists, the media, and any concerned citizen to easily find and contact their representatives on the environmental, consumer, good government, and transit issues that NYPIRG works on."
Meyer noted that the new Internet service will be especially valuable this year due to the heightened interest in politics in New York. This November, New Yorkers will vote for President, a U.S. Senator, and all 211 seats in the State Legislature.
Here's how the service works: connect to www.nypirg.org, click the Who Represents Me button, and enter a New York City street address. NYPIRG's Web site does the rest. It lists all the legislative and executive representatives for that addressfrom City Council to State Legislature to Congress (as well as Borough President, Mayor, New York State Governor, and U.S. President)and provides local contact information for each one. The list includes an e-mail link for each official (if one exists) so the Web user can send an e-mail immediately to each representative.
The "Who Represents Me" service is unique: NYPIRG's CMAP has developed a service that no government agency or commercial entity provides in New York, in which a Web user can visit just one Web site to find out who represents them at all levels of government.
The Web site was created using technology. Clicking on the map link next to each legislator will bring up one of CMAP's District Finder sites, where a user will see interactive maps for City Council, State Senate, State Assembly, and Congress for anywhere in New York City.
CMAP also plans to customize its "Who Represents Me" service for other organizations who need to provide specific government information to their members. "We can develop a customized Web-based mapping service for any nonprofit group working on policy reform issues in New York City, so they can also provide this essential information to their constituencies," noted CMAP's senior programmer Marty DeBenedictis. " provides mapping power that we can deploy for the benefit of many nonprofit groups." The functionality is customized with Microsoft's Visual Basic, which is provided with the support of Showcase New York, a foundation that provides Microsoft applications to nonprofit groups.
"Who Represents Me" is an expansion of a simpler but similarly effective Web site that NYPIRG's CMAP developed last year, "CouncilFinder."
CMAP is an entrepreneurial effort, charging nominal fees that are affordable to other nonprofits while also helping to cover CMAP's costs. For more information, contact Steven Romalewski (tel.: 212-349-6460, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.cmap.nypirg.org).