Steven Romalewski is currently director of the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center / CUNY. During his 32-year career he has helped hundreds of nonprofit groups across the country leverage the power of GIS; helped develop more than two-dozen online mapping services analyzing environmental issues, social services, transit routing, demographic trends, voting behavior, and legislative representation. He has also coordinated the work of community groups and others across New York to advocate for sensible environmental policies at the local, state, and federal levels. For the past 10 years, he has taught students at Pratt Institute how to use GIS in their urban planning careers, and helped educate many others through presentations about the value of GIS. He lives in Manhattan.
eSpatiallynewyork: How did you end up in your current position at Center for Urban Research?
Romalewski: Before joining CUNY I ran the Community Mapping Assistance Project (CMAP) at NYPIRG for about eight years, providing mapping services to nonprofit organizations across the country. (Before that I was an environmental researcher and advocate at NYPIRG.) By 2004 or so, CMAP’s work had started to outgrow our advocacy-oriented parent organization. Internally we discussed options of spinning off CMAP as a social business venture, merging it with another organization, or launching it as its own nonprofit.
At the same time we were going through a strategic planning effort for the OASIS project, and one of the key findings was that OASIS would benefit from an institutional setting such as academia where the OASIS website would be able to leverage more stable technology resources and organizational support.
One of the academic programs we talked with was the Center for Urban Research (CUR) at the CUNY Graduate Center. I had worked on projects over the years with CUR’s director John Mollenkopf, and he was a big fan of our work. It seemed like a great fit, and in January 2006 I moved to CUNY.
eSpatiallynewyork: How do CUR projects come to be or developed?
Romalewski: We’re fortunate to have a good amount of leeway in deciding on projects. Generally CUR engages in applied research projects in the areas of neighborhood change, immigration, and urban development broadly speaking. Within those areas, we look for mapping projects where we can have an impact, where we can leverage CUR’s mapping skills and expertise in analyzing urban trends, and that come with funding support so we can cover staff time and related expenses.
We’re especially interested in working with our colleagues throughout CUNY, as well as within city government (since CUNY has a close relationship with New York City agencies), but we also take on projects with a wide array of partners.
If the project involves an online mapping component we try to structure it so we can incorporate the latest and greatest interactive web and mapping techniques and technologies. Continue reading