Does anyone know where I can get free land use data for Manhattan? I'm specifically looking for fraction of residential, commercial and other landuse data for each census tract for the New York County.

I did search the NYC - Bytes of Big Apple website and found that they charge an appalling 300$ per borough for the land use at tax lot level.

Any help is greatly appreciated...

  • 2
    $300 is pretty reasonable to be honest (for the parcel data is what your referring to I imagine), at least in comparison to 20 times that for smaller upstate counties that I've been quoted for. Land use and parcel data are different things though (I think US wide land use data sets exists) - so what exactly do you need?
    – Andy W
    Apr 21, 2012 at 13:22
  • 1
    Considering the Dutch bought Manhattan for less than that it does seem a bit high. Apr 21, 2012 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


Census tracts are a lot less granular than parcels. Depending on the degree of precision that you're looking for, you may or may not need to spend the money on the parcel-based coverage.

You can use the free zoning map shapefile to determine the zoning status of each census tract. This quickest way to do this, at least to obtain preliminary results, would be to identify the zoning polygon that each census block group centroid falls within. Once you have that information, a simple SQL query will enable you to determine the proportion of block groups in each zoning classification, per census tract.

  • Interesting approach... I only want information at the Census tract level... I downloaded these files: nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/bytes/dwnzdata.shtml However I'm having diffficulty comprehending the files... Where exactly can I find the nature of a zone - if it is retail or residential... "a simple SQL query will enable you to determine the proportion of block groups" - Can you please elaborate?
    – sriramn
    Apr 21, 2012 at 20:13
  • You will need to read the local zoning code to make sense of the designations; I know nothing about NYC zoning but R followed by a number typically indicates residential, M followed by a number might indicate industrial (M is presumably for manufacturing), C might indicate commercial, and so on. As for the approah that I suggested, it's simply the quickest (and arguably dirtiest) way to reach your stated goal of determining the "fraction of residential, commercial, and other land use" per census tract. If you don't start with block groups or parcels, then there will be no "fraction" per tract! Apr 21, 2012 at 22:47
  • Really, if you have questions about how to analyze spatial data now that you have some to work with, they would best be asked separately from the original question about how to obtain the data. A detailed answer may depend in part on which tools you are using. Apr 21, 2012 at 22:52
  • Hmm... I was having trouble making sense of the codes... Guess I will find the data dictionary someplace... The method is a bit crude but it will achieve what I'm aiming for - or maybe I'll try some clip operation with the census tract layer and then add the areas of each type to get the answer.... But Thank you!! This has been most helpful!
    – sriramn
    Apr 21, 2012 at 22:53
  • You're welcome. Yes, using the parcel coverage would be a lot more precise, but also not free. Apr 21, 2012 at 22:55

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