Press Releases

For Immediate Release
September 20, 2023

Casey Berkovitz, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

City Planning Releases Most Comprehensive Data Set Ever on NYC Building Elevations, Flood Risk

Building Elevation and Subgrade Data Set, Available on NYC Open Data, Marks Generational Step Forward for Climate Resilience Efforts

NEW YORK – Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Dan Garodnick today announced the release of the Building Elevation and Subgrade Data Set, the most comprehensive data yet available on the elevations of New York City buildings and individual sites’ and neighborhoods’ risk of flooding. Available on NYC Open Data, this geospatial data set will allow the City to fine-tune its assessment of flood risk from extreme weather events, improving emergency management warnings and allowing local organizations to better access funding for local climate resilience efforts.

Developed with Cyclomedia, using street-level LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) capture, the data set greatly expands upon existing information about the city’s building stock and is able to be matched with other data sets through BBL (“Borough-Block-Lot”) numbers. Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, City agencies set out to improve the data available to mitigate future harms of sea level rise and extreme weather events; the scope of this effort expanded citywide following the tragic deaths and damage caused by Hurricane Ida in 2021, which showed that even areas far inland were at risk of flooding. This data set is the culmination of those efforts and will boost climate resilience, infrastructure investments, and emergency response efforts for future events. For example, it provided novel information for the U.S. Geological Survey’s examination of the flooding experienced during Hurricane Ida.

“We cannot protect our homes and buildings from the effects of climate change if we do not understand and communicate those risks. I’m proud to be making this data available to anybody who may benefit from it, from our emergency responders to local organizations seeking to better understand their own neighborhood’s vulnerabilities,” said Dan Garodnick, Director of the Department of City Planning. “Make no mistake: this data will save lives as we deal with the realities of climate change for New York City.”

“With every passing day, our climate continues to change and understanding which neighborhoods across the five boroughs are most prone to flooding helps guide our planning for future infrastructure investments,” said New York City Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “The Data Set released today by the Department of City Planning will also help us engage with elected officials and community organizations as we work to mobilize those New Yorkers most at risk from flooding to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their property.”

“Today marks a significant milestone with the release of the Building Elevation and Subgrade Data Set,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol. “This comprehensive tool arms us with invaluable insights into our city's flood risks, setting a new standard in urban climate resilience. This data set is far more than numbers and coordinates; it's a tool that can be used to refine our flood risk assessments, inform targeted infrastructure investments, and bolster emergency response strategies. By capturing details like building elevations and subgrade spaces, we are arming planners, first responders, and local organizations with the information they need to make smarter, more effective decisions. We're not just planning for the next storm; we're fortifying our commitment to the safety and well-being of every New Yorker.”

“We can’t manage what we can’t measure, and this important data release will help the City better gauge flood risk, improve emergency warnings, and assist community-based organizations as they access crucial investment for resilience work in environmental justice areas,” said Victoria Cerullo, Acting Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice. “Mayor Adams believes in the power of data to effect change and we need good and open data to protect New Yorkers from the effects of extreme weather.”

“As we see an increase in extreme weather events, DCP’s data will be crucial to aiding the FDNY and other city agencies in preparing for emergencies,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “The FDNY is committed to using every tool at our disposal to keep New Yorkers safe and we are thankful to DCP for their efforts to further improve emergency responses.”

“New York City is a national leader in sustainability and resiliency planning, thanks in part to extensive data analytics for every part of our city’s built environment,” said Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “As the City’s floodplain administrator, DOB enforces extensive flood resistant construction requirements for properties in the floodplain. Thanks to the work from our partners at the Department of City Planning, this new elevation study puts us in a much better position to prepare for future storms and gives us a much better understanding of how our City will fare in the face of climate change.”   

For each building, the data set includes the grade (the lowest point where the building touches the ground), the first floor elevation, and the presence of subgrade space, such as a basement or cellar. The data does not include information on how subgrade spaces are being used. The data is interoperable with existing citywide data sets such as PLUTO, the City’s building information database, allowing greater utility for analysis and planning efforts, and can be accessed through NYC Open Data here. The information is available as a geospatial data set, which allows it to be processed, mapped, and visualized in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

Department of City Planning
The Department of City Planning (DCP) plans for the strategic growth and development of the City through ground-up planning with communities, the development of land use policies and zoning regulations applicable citywide, and its contribution to the preparation of the City’s 10-year Capital Strategy. DCP promotes housing production and affordability, fosters economic development and coordinated investments in infrastructure and services, and supports resilient, sustainable communities across the five boroughs for a more equitable New York City.

In addition, DCP supports the City Planning Commission in its annual review of approximately 450 land use applications for a variety of discretionary approvals. The Department also assists both government agencies and the public by advising on strategic and capital planning and providing policy analysis, technical assistance and data relating to housing, transportation, community facilities, demography, zoning, urban design, waterfront areas and public open space.