Justin Blinder
Artist, Programmer, Designer
Vacated



Vacated is a commision by More Art for Envision NY 2017 and was produced with the support of Eyebeam Art & Technology Center. The project is ongoing.



Update
In April 2014, four months after Vacated launched and received widespread media coverage, Google released a large portion of their historical image data through their Street View "Time Machine" tool. This historical imagery had previously remained unavailable (or hidden) to the public for over seven years.

Vacated


Vacated reverse engineers Google Street View to highlight the changing landscape of various neighborhoods throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. The project finds buildings constructed in the past four years using the NYC Department of City Planning's PLUTO dataset, and it leverages Google Street View's cache to visualize absent lots just before new buildings were constructed. For Envision 2017's website, the ages of other buildings on these same blocks are also shown in each scene.

Vacated mines and combines different datasets on vacant lots to present a sort of physical façade of gentrification, one that immediately prompts questions by virtue of its incompleteness: “Vacated by whom? Why? How long had they been there? And who’s replacing them?” Are all these changes instances of gentrification, or just some? While we usually think of gentrification in terms of what is new or has been displaced, Vacated highlights the momentary absence of such buildings, either because they’ve been demolished or have not yet been built. All images depicted in the project are both temporal and ephemeral, since they draw upon image caches that will eventually be replaced.

Ultimately, “Vacated” is a walking tour of the changing urban landscape during the Bloomberg administration— it depicts some obvious examples of dramatic change, but in the end, it's up to the viewer to decide whether this change represents widespread gentrification.

Selected Press:
The Atlantic Cities
New York Magazine
The Washington Post
Gothamist
The Verge
Gizmodo
Curbed
Business Insider
Animal
Fast Co.Create
Laughing Squid
Q&A with More Art about Vacated commission.

Process


This project began by examining whether temporal differences in Google Street View's cache could be used as a device to narrate rapidly changing urban landscapes. Since Google updates major roads on Street View more frequently, buildings located along intersections often contain images from two different time periods. This temporal gap can be large enough to span the entire construction of a new building.

To find these some of these gaps, I used the NYC Department of City Planning PLUTO dataset to extract addresses that had been built or altered since 2009 (although some Street View imagery goes back even further). The dataset contains a "Lot Type" field for each entry, which I used to find only buildings that are located on intersections.

Below are: 1. animated gifs of example locations, 2. an interactive map of new developments in Manhattan and Brooklyn, 3. the original Envision 2017 commission, with building dates along blocks, and 4. stills of vacant lots since replaced with new housing developments.

Animated gifs of example locations


These images were specifically extracted from neighborhoods where housing costs have significantly increased since 2004
190 India Street, Brooklyn, NY

11 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY

11 2nd Avenue, New York, NY

253 Eckford Street, Brooklyn, NY

91-93 Bowery Street, New York, NY

1 Clermont Street, Brooklyn, NY

Interactive Map


The map below shows all new developments in Manhattan and Brooklyn, located along intersections, that were built between 2009-2013. To view before and after images, click on a map marker, then navigate around the intersection on Street View (using the mouse or keyboard) to see the before and after images. The Street View window starts you off where Mars Bar was previously located -- navigate to the intersection of 2nd Ave and East 1st Street to see it. Note: Not all locations contain cached images before or after a construction started. Since certain locations depict a range of addresses instead of an individual address, you may need to navigate around an entire block to see different caches.


Original Envision 2017 commission


(includes building dates along blocks)


Stills from Envision 2017 commission


Vacant lots that have since been replaced with new housing developments