Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Data, Office of Emergency Management
Whether it is a hurricane, a fire, a flood, a black out or a terrorist threat, the City turns to James McConnell and his team to produce the GIS data maps that are essential to the City's emergency response. Since the late 1980s when GIS emerged as an important technology that captures, manages, analyzes and presents geographically referenced data, McConnell has been one of the GIS trailblazers for the City and is now one of the foremost GIS experts in the country.
Since September 12, 2001, McConnell has headed GIS at the Office of Emergency Management, when he was drafted from City Planning to coordinate the City's GIS capacity in the aftermath of 9/11. Working with 100 GIS experts from many government agencies and private companies, McConnell and his colleagues made thousands of maps in the first few weeks that were critical in rescue and recovery efforts.
McConnell is frequently described by colleagues as "an extraordinary, consummate professional" because of the scope of his knowledge about all the elements required to use GIS well—"data, software, hardware, people, politics and GIS science." He anticipates what economic, demographic, social, health, education, physical infrastructure data might be needed and gets it by forging rare partnerships with hundreds of public and private agencies. Recently, McConnell created the definitive map of the City's 400-plus subway stations, from the staircases to escape hatches, by obtaining the blue prints and converting them to GIS format. It was immediately useful in containing a track fire at a subway station in Brooklyn. Says OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno, "Quantifying and mapping New York City is McConnell's passion. It would be hard to overstate the benefits that accrue to ordinary New Yorkers because of his quiet and constant leadership."