Compare historic and modern aerial photos of NYC by "scratching off" the top layer
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#Urban Scratch-off

Test it here


Near where I live in Brooklyn, the BQE runs through a trench in the ground. I've always read and heard about the condemned buildings and displaced people that used to live where our urban highways run, so I thought it would be a good visual to allow the user to manually "Reveal" the urban highway by "Scratching" or mousing over a historic aerial photo.

###Methodology Thanks to Dave Riordan for pointing me to NYPL Mapwarper, where I was able to rectify a 1924 aerial photo of Brooklyn.

Once I had the rectified png and a KML file with the bounds of the image, I needed to get it into a canvas overlay in leaflet.

Leaflet.CanvasLayer plugin adds a canvas overlay to a leaflet map, and gives you the bounds of the current view to use when transforming whatever you are going to render.

Code below is basically an adaptation of leaflet's native imageOverlay method, providing a size and offset based on the current map view. These are passed into canvas drawImage() to draw the overlay from the png.

function drawingOnCanvas(canvasOverlay, params) {
          var ctx = params.canvas.getContext('2d');

          ctx.fillCircle = fillCircle;

          ctx.clearRect(0, 0, params.canvas.width, params.canvas.height); 

          var bounds = new L.Bounds(
          var size = bounds.getSize();


"erasing" parts of the canvas overlay is done by setting a circle under the mouse to trasnparent, this process.


  • I would like to make this a "story" platform where people can highlight areas of the city that are interesting scratch-offs". Immindent domain, transit projects, landfill development, etc all make for interesting changes to explore.
  • Vector Overlays - User could add vector overlays to an area, saying "scratch here to reveal an urban highway" or whatever, with a blurb or narrative about the history of what they are highlighting.