Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Neighborhood Is #4

To quote Nate Silver of Brooklyn Heights in the current issue of New York magazine: "I've been happy here, but like most New Yorkers, I suffer from a bit of grass-is-greener syndrome. Would I be better off living in Astoria? Prospect Heights? Chelsea?" Nate & Co. of the magazine conducted a recent quantitative assessment of neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Among their criteria were things like housing costs, transit, shopping, diversity, green space, etc. Each of these areas were assigned point values and prioritized in some mathematical manner which I don't understand and...voilĂ !...they've determined that the best NYC neighborhood is Park Slope (Brooklyn), followed by the Lower East Side, and Sunnyside (Queens). My neighborhood, Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill, comes in at #4.

Now my initial response to this was to be somewhat excited, because it would seem that I would agree with the results. I actually love my neighborhood. I've lived here since 2005. I rent a floor of a brownstone built in 1895 (alas, the building has lost all its Victorian charm over time), giving me a lot more space than most other New Yorkers. I have everything I need within a few blocks: laundromat, grocery store, at least 3 cafes (one of which is also a decent bagel place, which is an absolute necessity in NYC), and some great restaurants just a few blocks away. On the downside, the closest subway is an 8-minute walk, which in the rain or in blustery winter conditions pretty much sucks. Oh, yes, and we have way too many hipster couples with children (please tell me why I have to compete with strollers and crying babies in a small cafe when I just want to read a book with a cup of coffee and a bagel???).

As for the other neighborhoods on the list, the LES has never really impressed me, but admittedly I haven't spent enough time there, and I've never been to Sunnyside so I can't say anything about that place. Park Slope is pretty great, but truthfully it seems very gentrified and expensive as a result. That, of course, is rather ironic, because according to this article, Park Slope is supposed to be one of the best deals for apartments (2 bedroom for $2275/month), but who are they kidding? All of the rents they're citing in this article are actually lower than what people typically pay. Nate & Co. are forgetting about things like rent stabilization and control; when it exists, it drastically changes the scope of rents.

There is a Livability Calculator which accompanies the article. It allows you to rank your own priorities and thus generate the perfect neighborhood for you. The problem is that apparently some decent places don't make it on the list at all. If you browse the pages of comments left by readers, you'll discover, for instance, many who lament that Forest Hills (Queens) is missing, and apparently this area has some of the great deals in terms of rent, etc. (I've been to Forest Hills a few times, and it seems all right; I'm just not a big fan of Queens in general). There are other concerns with this general article and the study's results. Nate & Co. recognize this, but they don't seem to clarify all the issues. In fact, to me, it seems most strange that a quantitative survey is being used to assess quality of life? How do you measure desire and taste? Isn't what you like about your neighborhood related to what you get out of it? You could live in a neighborhood with the best school system and fabulous restaurants, but if you don't have children and you never eat out, then what good is it for you to be living in that neighborhood?

The best part of the article is the comment section online. Leave it to New Yorkers to express qualitative thoughts to the article and study. LMR925, for instance, writes: "Something that was not mentioned regarding Tribeca is that everyone who lives there is a nouveau riche turd and hanging out in the playground with them (or their nannies) and their bratty kids is the PITS! I live in the West Village. It is better there though we have plenty of jackasses too." I think another commenter, FHOEBE, aptly points out a problem with how they're defining diversity and how that relates to the magazine's readership: "Diversity really need to be defined more realistically because it's absurd to call many of these neighborhoods 'diverse.' Be aware that on this spectrum, diversity means white with either a light dusting of everyone else to slight sprinkle. It's ridiculous to write an article of this sort that went to certain lengths to be comprehensive, without interrogating the fact that readership dictates its truth. ... It may not be so pretty for your readers to confront, but it's a white-centric, rich-centric article (and dare I say publication)."

All that said, it's still somewhat fun to discover my neighborhood is #4 on the list, and none of the commenters seem to be squabbling that. Going back to the Livability Calculator, I adjusted it to my own personal interests to discover my "perfect" neighborhood. #1 is the East Village and #2 is Tribeca. Now, while it would be great to live in those neighborhoods, I don't know how they're figuring those results because there is no way I could ever afford to live in either place, as they have some of the most expensive real estate in the City. What is funny, however, is what ranks as #s 3, 4, and 5 for me: Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, guessed it!...Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill. Imagine that: bklynbiblio favors Brooklyn neighborhoods! Apparently I'm exactly where I'm meant to be right now.

No comments: