One of the interesting dynamics of living in New York City is the way we constantly switch between identifying with our macro- and micro-communities. For example, because of our excellent subway system (don’t let the complainers and the haters fool you: it is among the best, if not the best, on the planet), almost all of New York City can easily be “your neighborhood”. And, frankly, this attitude is by far the best way to get the most of out all the city has to offer.
At the same time, New Yorkers also tend to be fiercely loyal to–and stereotyped by others because of–our specific community. Quick: picture a resident of a Park Slope apartment. Now do Tribeca. Bushwick. Astoria. The Upper East Side. Harlem. Murray Hill. Staten Island. See? Everyone does it. And drilling down even further, the most savvy New Yorkers know that even the most established, homogeneous communities can differ considerably in their character on a block-by-block basis. And its that level of neighborhood exploration–down to the block–that was the subject of two great posts this past week.
State of the Block 2013 from the NY Times
To coincide with Mayor Bloomberg’s “State of the City” address (on Valentine’s Day! such a romantic…) The New York Times City Room blog asked its readers to chime in with their own, closer-to-home “State of the Block” proclamations. Needless to say, the response was passionate. And though complainers out-commented the contented (this is the internet, after all), the piece overall provided some nice snapshots of NYC communities all over town.
Take this quote, for example, from Max of West 173rd Street, between Audubon and Amsterdam Avenues: “My area in Washington Heights, like every neighborhood in New York City has been at one time or another, is a diamond waiting to be polished and reset.” Or this, from Jon Green, about the changes going on in his neck of Bed-Stuy: “We even have a frat guy who, shortly after arriving, got a vanity plate for his giant Hummer that says King of Brooklyn.” And on. Definitely worth a read, both the raw and the edited, if you’re looking for a NYC no-fee rental apartment and you’re unsure where you want to live.
Cool New DOT Tool for Receiving Public Feedback on Traffic Safety
Much less broad but such a cool communication tool I hope it becomes widespread, last week Curbed pointed out that the Department of Transportation’s month’s-long investigation into improving traffic safety and overall quality of life for residents of Park Slope and Bay Ridge apartments along Fourth Avenue now involves an awesome, interactive, comments-from-the-community feature.
In what is basically a hack of Google Street Views of Fourth Avenue (from Atlantic Avenue to 14th Street in Park Slope; and, somewhat confusingly, from Shore Road to Shore Road in Bay Ridge (Shore Road loops)), the DOT gives everyone the opportunity for feedback, complaints, suggestions with a simple interface: just click anywhere along the route and write your comment on a virtual post-it, which then gets posted on the exact location of your concern. Naturally, the comments run the gamut from the specific and constructive (“The entire curbside lane from 14th to 13th should be designated No Standing to allow for safe drop off and pick up of students”) to the general and cranky (“We need trees. 4th Avenue is ugly.)”, but the application of this user-friendly community-feedback tool could be very useful in future planning.