NEW YORK -- Empire State Development (ESD) launched a new interactive mapping Web site this week that will make it easier for tourists, residents and others to locate the exact stores and services they seek.

ESD officials also said the new site should help local businesses and cultural sites achieve their recovery and redevelopment goals.

"Our mapping site helps tourists, business travelers and even local residents find out where to shop, what to see, where to eat and how to get around downtown," said Charles Gargano, chairman of ESD. "This new service is part of New York state's contribution to bring a much-needed resurgence in tourism and related spending for downtown's small businesses as we move ahead with the rebuilding effort."

The site was created for ESD by New York Public Interest Research Group's Community Mapping Assistance Project (CMAP) through the World Trade Center Technical Assistance Services Grant program.

The WTC Technical Assistance Services grant program is part of the $700 million in federal disaster funds provided to ESD from HUD for recovery and redevelopment of New York following the attack on the World Trade Center. ESD allocated $5 million of these funds to be granted to service providers to assist small businesses located in Lower Manhattan with recovery and redevelopment objectives.

The Web site includes information maintained by three business improvement districts -- Downtown Alliance, Lower East Side BID and the TriBeCa Organization -- on almost 2,000 local businesses, retail stores, restaurants, community services, cultural sites and tourist attractions. CMAP has mapped these sites and developed an easy way to view them online, along with transportation options and key landmarks.

The interactive map also offers information such as subway, bus and ferry routes needed to get downtown. The service provides thematic maps based on user input to show the locations of all sites of a particular category in a given neighborhood, or within a several block radius from any Lower Manhattan address. A visitor using the online service can click on each store or site on the map and obtain detailed information about it, including phone numbers and hours of operation.

"Lower Manhattan is a unique and exciting urban district with many points of interest for workers, residents and visitors," said Carl Weisbrod, president of Downtown Alliance. "This mapping technology will provide a tremendous value in not only locating these points, but also sparking economic activity downtown."

-- New York Public Interest Research Group