The City of New York photographed every building within its limits for taxation purpose in black-and-white in the late 1930s and in color in the 1980s, and it is now eyeing a deal with Google to digitize some of the photos in exchange for the use of the image on Google’s searchable maps, The New York Times‘ City Room reported.
The photos have been available for purchase by the public for 20 years, but the only way to view an image involves a trip to the city’s municipal archives to search microfilm by block and lot number, according to City Room.
Google estimated the cost of digitizing some 90,000 images of Manhattan buildings at around $50,000, and it would have access to the photos for its mapping feature for one year, with the city having two one-year renewal options, City Room reported.
City comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. was unhappy with the fact that other companies were not considered, releasing the following statement:
At a time when New York City and State are facing trying economic times, it is important to ensure that the city is getting the best possible deal for access to these valuable and historic photos. (It should be achieved only) through an open and competitive process, where all qualified providers have the opportunity to participate.
City commissioner of records and information services Brian G. Andersson countered to City Room:
The city gets the opportunity to test whether this use of the city’s photographs is in the city’s best interest. If it is, the city will initiate a competitive process for a long-term contract covering the five boroughs. At that point, we will know the exact standards and qualities we’ll be seeking for the long-term contract, which will make the process clearer and more fair for companies offering proposals later on.