Jacqueline Lu

Jacqueline Lu
Director of Data Analytics
City of New York Parks & Recreation

Favorite Music

Alternative rock e.g., The National which she discovered in a tiny bar in NYC when a friend’s band opened for them.

Challenge

NYC takes a census every 10 years of its “street trees,” ie, not those in parks but along the curbs—by latest count, 666,134 in the five boroughs. Why? Last year the city pruned 87,000 trees, removed 60,000, and planted 62,000. The first censuses (in 1995 and 2005) were old-school, done with paper and clipboard, producing only a static snapshot and location data no more precise than mere street addresses—the dots representing multiple trees at the same property on a diagram would all be stacked on top of each other. While this provided a general sense of how trees were distributed in the region, the city wanted to pinpoint them exactly for daily operational purposes. It was also looking for a way to make counting easier and more engaging because, due to budget constraints, it relies on volunteers to collect the data as well as to help care for the urban forest.

Solution

For the 2015 street tree census, the city decided that in the Age of Apps, it should be done in a digital friendly way, making it more efficient and reliable, yielding a “living data set” with more detailed and easily updatable information. So it used a fun mapping procedure, designed by local non-profit TreeKIT, that married new geospatial technology with old surveying tools. (Interestingly, not including GPS, which in a concrete canyon like NYC is accurate only to within 15 feet.) An algorithm was created so volunteers could use a wheel to measure distance between trees, enter numbers on a smart phone, and, presto, a “geometry constructor” would map the trees along the curb. The street tree census app also integrated online training and a platform for mapping social events to recruit and energize volunteers—2,241 eagerly signed up.

Lessons

The story doesn’t end there: a forestry work management system allows staff to update tree maps every day and showcases the data on a public websitehttp://www.nyc.gov/parks/treemap.

Job

Started tree mapping when Director of GIS and Analytics in the Forestry, Horticulture & Natural Resources division of NYC Parks. In 2015 she took on a new role as Director of Data Analytics at the division of Innovation & Performance Management, where she has started a new program focused on improving service delivery.

Jacqueline’s Personal Background

Raised in Hong Kong her first 11 years, emigrated with her family to Toronto, went to Princeton as an ecology and evolutionary biology major, placed by Princeton’s Project 55 fellowship program into NYC public service career in 1999.

Startling Fact

Somehow as new mom of 6-month-old finds time to do the above.

Contact Info

jacqueline.lu@parks.nyc.gov

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