Following up on the diversity index post from last week, more on the WNYC story about tract 754 in Midwood being the "least diverse neighborhood in the city."
One problem with this contention is that a single census tract is almost never a "neighborhood." Now, there are some cases where you can make the argument that a neighborhood falls within a single census tract: Co-op City, Broad Channel, Breezy Point, and City Island come to mind, for instance. But tract 754 is definitely not a "neighborhood." In fact, the article references several things outside the tract to try and demonstrate the character of the neighborhood, such as the synagogues within walking distance, and the kosher bagel shops and travel agencies advertising trips to Israel on the commercial strip about 5 blocks away. So let's analyze the larger neighborhood picture to see if it's really the "least diverse neighborhood in the city."
View Midwood in a larger map
In red, above, is Brooklyn Census Tract 754, which has a diversity index of 1. In blue is tract 754, plus every tract that borders it (748, 750, 752, 756, 758, 760). This isn't meant to be the borders of "Midwood," it's just meant to give an example of a reasonable geographical area that could be called a "neighborhood" which centers on tract 754. This lets us see how diverse tract 754's "neighborhood" is.
Running the diversity index on the larger area, it ends up at 27*. And if you include an additional two tracts to the west, which encompass the commercial strip WNYC article describes in the article, it ends up even higher at 32.
Now, 27 is still not very high, especially for New York City, whose diversity index as a whole is 78.5, or for Brooklyn, which scores a 74, or even for New York State, which scores a 62**. But it is still far from extreme. For instance, it's a score as high or higher than 8 states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, West Virginia, Kentucky, and tied with Wyoming). It's also a higher score than several other places in New York that are considered "neighborhoods," like Howard Beach (23), Gerritsen Beach (21), Broad Channel (19), Manhattan Beach (10), and Breezy Point (7).
For those curious, these are all predominantly white neighborhoods. There are also predominantly African-American neighborhoods, all in Central Brooklyn and Southeast Queens, that I can assume would also score lower than the "Midwood" area I aggregated (there are no predominantly Hispanic or Asian neighborhoods that even come close to Midwood's score, although there is one tract in Chinatown that scores a 24). But what you would call a "neighborhood" in those areas is made up of many more census tracts than the neighborhoods referenced above, which are made up of 3 tracts at most and are generally just one or two, and more than I can do a quick and accurate back-of-the-envelope calculation with. For instance, a reasonable definition of "St. Albans," would be about 15 separate tracts, and for "East Flatbush" would be about 30. For what it's worth, I'm almost certain St. Albans, Cambria Heights, Laurelton, and East Flatbush would all score lower than 27.
There are also some other predominantly white neighborhoods made up of several census tracts, like Borough Park, which would score lower than 27. And in addition, there are several areas - both predominantly white and predominantly African-American - of at least seven census tracts (the same amount as the "Midwood," area I aggregated), but which only make up part of a neighborhood, where this is true as well.
The real point to this exercise is to demonstrate that much of the conversation around the neighbohoods of New York City is heavily dependent on the details of the geography you use. There is no real objectively "correct" geography when it comes to "neighborhoods" in New York, but it's important not to be loose with the term either. The WNYC article reads as claiming that Midwood is the least diverse neighborhood in New York (which is demonstrably untrue), and you have to really examine the article with much closer attention than I believe it is fair to expect a lay reader to do in order to realize that this might not be the case.
Tracts: B748, B750, B752, B754, B756, B758, B760
*I should note that I calculate the diversity index slightly differently from the most commonly used calculation, which is USA Today's. Specifically, I include "other race" in the base calculation. In the neighborhoods I analyzed, this doesn't have an effect of more than a point or two difference at most.
** I should also note comparing the diversity index across different sized geographies is not really a good comparison. Especially at very small geographies, it breaks down. For instance, the vast majority of houses in America have a diversity index of 0, as everyone in the household is usually of the same race. An area's diversity index should really be compared across other similar sized geographies, in this case about 18,000 people.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Following up on the diversity index post from last week, more on the WNYC story about tract 754 in Midwood being the "least diverse neighborhood in the city."
Thursday, May 10, 2012
WNYC has a really interesting interactive map which measures the diversity of each New York City Census Tract.
It's worth noting that the definition of "diversity" is based on the Diversity Index. This is the probability that two people chosen at random will be of a different race and ethnicity (by "ethnicity" I mean the census definition, which is either Hispanic or non-Hispanic). It's a good and simple measurement for racial diversity, and mathematically allows for diversity to increase based on two factors - both a higher percentage of people of minority groups, as well as the amount of minority groups themselves. For instance, a tract that's 75% Black and 25% Asian would have a diversity index of 38.5, while one that's 50% Black and 50% Asian would have a diversity index of 50. However, one that is 50% Black, 25% Asian, and 25% Pacific Islander would have a diversity index of 62.5.
But this index is one that is not really designed for the type of diversity we're used to here in New York, where we think of language, religion, ethnicity (in the non-census sense of the word), being foreign-born, and several other factors as contributing to "diversity," as well as race.
For instance, take the tract in Midwood (Brooklyn Tract 754) a mainly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood that they report on as "the most homogeneous in NYC." While the tract is 100% white and only .3% Hispanic, if you dig a little deeper the numbers tell a different story. According to the 5-year ACS data, 7.7% of the residents are of Arabic ancestry (who are classified as "white" by the census), 15% of residents are foreign-born, and almost 20% of residents speak a language other than English at home*. Not huge indicators of diversity by NYC standards, but a ways away from deserving the label "homogeneous."
As for the Jewishness of the neighborhood, this is tougher to quantify, but there are clues in the Ancestry category. The census does not count religion, and will not enumerate any answer in the Ancestry category that they consider a religious answer, instead putting them in the "other group" category. This includes "Jewish," as well an any and all derivatives (even ones considered more ethnic than religious, like "Askenazic"). A little over half of the First Ancestry category is enumerated as "other groups."
Unfortunately, this doesn't really tell us a whole lot, as a little over half of New York City overall falls into the "other group" category and New York City is only estimated at about 10% Jewish. However, to complicate things even more, a large percentage (probably close to half) of these are answers are various Hispanic ancestries, which the census tabulates as Ethnicity and not Ancestry. And since our tract as a whole is only .3% Hispanic, we can pretty safely assume a good amount of the "other group" is Jewish. In addition, about a quarter of the responses are various Eastern European ancestries that are likely to have been put down by Jewish respondents. Taking this data, and factoring in some observation from a quick stroll through the neighborhood, I think it's safe to assume the neighborhood is at least half Jewish.
But, there's one more clue. About 20% of the First Ancestry answers are ones very unlikely to be put down by Jewish respondents. These are English, Irish, American, and Lebanese. (There is also Syrian and Iranian ancestry reported, but Southern Brooklyn has communities of Syrian and Iranian Jews). This lets us peg the Census Tract as one that's at most 80% Jewish, giving us a (very rough and unscientific) estimate of about 50-80% Jewish overall. There's really no way of knowing beyond this rough and unscientific guess how Jewish the tract actually is, (much less how Orthodox Jewish), but I think we know enough to say "homogenously," would not be a fair adjective to use.In fact, rather than portraying the eight blocks of Midwood as some kind of insular shtetl, a far better angle for the story would have been "even at its most homogenous, NYC is amazingly diverse."
Tracts Walked: B754
*It should be noted that the margins of error for these questions on the Census Tract level are enormous, due to the replacement of the Census Long Form with the American Community Survey. But you work with the datasets you have.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
This was originally posted three years ago, but I've had a couple of requests for it again. I haven't been to Dyker Heights yet this season, but the houses that have the huge displays stay pretty consistent year-to-year. As such, I imagine this map is still pretty accurate. I'll update it if I notice anything different next time I'm there.
You don't have to go to Dyker Heights to see crazy Christmas displays – pretty much any neighborhood with the magic combination of detached houses and Italians will do the trick. Houses at Westervelt and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, Beach 144th and Neponsit in the Rockaways, East 93rd street and Flatlands in Canarsie, and 81st street at Colonial in Bay Ridge all easily rival the big displays of Dyker Heights.
But Dyker Heights has quantity along with quality. I've included a handy-dandy map of the highlights below. The map is for the heart of the area - surrounded by 15th Avenue, 86th street, the Gowanus Expressway, and 79th street - but you'll find lights well beyond these borders.
Now, keep in mind that pretty much every block in this area has at least one house that would take the cake on whatever street you live on. With that being said, red blocks are streets that are especially worth a stroll down, while blue blocks are can't-miss. Green points mark exceptional displays, and bathrooms (Nathan's and Bklyn Pizza) are indicated by the familiar symbol. The area's about equidistant from the R at 77th street or 86th street on the west, or the D at 79th street or 18th Avenue on the east.
View Larger Map
As you walk around, the displays start to seem a bit repetitive. You notice the same sparkling reindeers, inflated ferris wheels, and Christmas Countdown clocks. For the really big boys (and some of the smaller guys) I'm pretty sure the lights remain a labor of love, but for others the yard signs proclaiming designs by B&R Decorators and V&J Lighting show that the Dyker Heights lights are mostly about the social pressure of keeping up with the customs of the neighborhood.
No, no pictures – go see them for yourself. If you can't take the schlep, check out Gothamist or Flickr.
Tracts Walked: B140, B144, B146, B148, B150 (every street in tract), B186, B184, B170
Monday, November 7, 2011
There are many neighborhoods in New York where I'm reminded of my Grandparents - huge swaths of Southern Brooklyn, half of Queens Boulevard, a few scattered blocks of the east Bronx even. There should be. My grandparents are part of one of largest, and most culturally influential groups ever to hit New York - part of the great wave of immigrants and their children from the shtetels of Eastern Europe. Even today, almost 100 years after it ended, that culture has remained. The people who make it up may not be so numerous anymore, but it still has a while before it fades completely from the neighborhoods it once dominated
There are fewer neighborhoods where I'm reminded of my parents - middle-class liberal boomer Jews. You'd think that would be a big demographic in New York, one which has left a sizable imprint on the city as a whole. And it has - but it's an imprint that's not really rooted in specific geography, one where the residents have transmitted a character that's stuck to the streets. Most neighborhoods where you would think it might be encountered have either remained with that feeling of my grandparents' world, or been transformed into a kind of generic yuppiness. One of the few places (small parts of Flatbush being the only others that comes to mind right away) I've found it has been in Riverdale.
I never thought I'd like Riverdale - because the combination of its name, middle-class residents and relative suburbaness, it was always put out there in the public consciousness as kind of a souless and uninteresting contrast to the rest of the Bronx - a simplistic and inaccurate narrative for both sides of the divide, but one which I fell for.
It turns out I do like Riverdale, very much. Part of it is because it reminds me of a world I know and love, part of it is because it's one of those neighborhoods that feels like it retained its same basic character for the last 30 years as the city has changed dramatically around it -one of the few neighborhoods in New York where you don't feel like you're just seeing a snapshot of a state of flux. But most of it is because walking around it is interesting. It's one of the only neighborhoods where you can turn a corner and not really know what's next: a cliff, a high rise, a mansion, the Hudson River. Greater Riverdale - essentially the Bronx west of Broadway - looks small on a map but feels vast when you walk it. The topography is a big component of this - the area houses both the highest and lowest points in the Bronx. The lack of any real street grid is another part. But it's the variety of use that really does it. There are streets that would be at home in Scarsdale, and others that would fit right into Washington Heights. There are parks of the woodland variety and ballfield variety, two colleges in its borders, sleek highways and horribly maintained winding asphalt. The Bronx itself is like this - it's the borough that's most patchwork, where you're most likely to find a wood-frame house, 1970s concrete tower, pre-war art deco building, and recent Fedder-crap condo all inhabiting the same block.
But throughout all this physical diversity, a certain character to the neighborhood remains. A character where I'd be not the least but surprised to turn the corner and see my mother or father walking the dog or shlepping home a bag of groceries.
Neighborhods: Riverdale, Fieldston, Spuyten Duyvil
Tracts Walked: Bx285, Bx287, Bx289, Bx293, Bx295, Bx297, Bx301, Bx307, Bx317, Bx319, Bx323, Bx329, Bx333, Bx339, Bx341, Bx343, Bx345, Bx351
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Following up from my last post, out of the 16,000 new white residents that have arrived in Bed-Stuy in last decade, which this NY Times article references, 4,569 (28.5%) - of them are concentrated in just one census tract: Brooklyn Tract 1237. 1237 is bounded by Taffe Place, Nostrand Avenue, Flushing Avenue, and Myrtle Avenue.
View Bed-Stuy and Tract 1237 in a larger map
Take a walk through this area. You will find a lot of new apartment buildings with scores of small balconies jutting out awkwardly. You will find a lot of signage written in a strange, but somewhat recognizable alphabet. You will find a lot of guys dressed in black suits, a lot women dressed in long skirts, and a lot of children running on the sidewalk. You will not find very many people like the Jazz musician Arthur Kell, or Lawyer and Coffehouse owner Tremaine Wright, or anyone else the Times references in the article.
The Times quotes four white residents who have moved to the city in the last decade, one black resident who they imply, but don't outright state, is a lifelong resident, three academics (one of whom is also a resident of the neighborhood who is black, although it doesn't say when he moved there), a local real estate agent, the Community Board chair, and the neighborhood Assemblyperson.
There are no quotes from longtime white residents, or new black arrivals, or any other type of resident. There is no mention of the quarter of the people in the neighborhood who are neither black nor white. While this could perhaps be forgiven, given that the article is specifically about the growth of the white population and the decline of the black population, there is not even a passing mention of the role the Hassidic Community played in this, much less an attempt to interview any about the changes in the neighborhood. When you only talk to certain people, it's not a surprise when you construct a certain narrative.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Two NY Times articles:
Under 18 population in NYC is becoming more white
Bed-Stuy is becoming more white
As I've written here before, I appreciate Sam Roberts and the NY Times' demographic coverage, which is much more intensive and in depth than you find in most other large papers. That being said they very, very often report with a strange set of blinders on.
First of all, the Times completely misses a gigantic factor in both these stories, which is the growth of the Hassidic population Brooklyn (and in Northern Bed-Stuy between Myrtle and Flushing as it specifically relates to the Bed-Stuy story), in favor of their general gentrification narrative.
But more importantly, the Times seems to think the story of the city is that of young, white people with disposable income and their varying migration patters, and the impact of these migration patters on the rest of the city (the flaws of which I wrote about here). While this is certainly A story, it is not THE story. It is not even a large story.
Check out the map showing white population change in the last decade. The areas where there is high growth of the white poplation are small and very specific parts of the city, limited to about half of Manhattan, a quarter of Brooklyn, the south shore of Staten Island, and a few other isolated census tracts. And many of these have nothing to do with the Hipster/Yuppie gentrification pattern - they're growth in the Hassidic, other religious Jewish, Eastern European, Central Asian or other populations that are pretty far from the MacLaren stroller-pushing couple or fixie-riding hipster that the Times seems to think are so important.
I would love the next story about Demographic change in the city to be about the growth of the South Asian community in Ozone Park and East New York, or the Korean population in Bayside, or the diversification of the North Shore of Staten Island or Jamaica Estates or Bensonhurst. Or just something other than this same old story.
Sometimes you have to look at the NY Times more like one of New York's ethnic newspapers - their ethnicity being, essentially, "Yuppie." Once you look at it like this, the biases in these types of stories become understandable and less frustrating. Still, if you're going to call yourself the "New York" Times, you should try to focus on the citizens of "New York," about 3/4 of whom live well beyond the geographic and social confines that the Times' demographic reporting has been limited to so far.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
In doing our walk from the lowest zip code in New York (10001 in Midtown) to the highest (11697 in the Rockaways), we came up against a problem – one member of the group had heard of an even lower Zip Code: 00083, which is Central Park. I had never heard of Central Park having its own Zip Code, and decided to look into if this a little deeper. Evidence is mostly negative. To note:
1) Looking up all Zip Codes for "New York, NY" on the United States Postal Service Zip Code Lookup doesn't return 00083.
2) Downloading the GIS shapefile for NY State Zip Codes clearly shows no separate Zip Code for Central Park, instead dividing it up amongst several different Upper East and Upper West Side Zip codes.
3) The NYC Parks Department Headquarters, which is actually within Park boundaries, does not use the 00083 zip code, instead having Zip Code 10065. Likewise, the NYPD Central Park Precinct uses 10024. Others places, like the Central Park Boathouse and Central Park Zoo don’t list zip codes at all.
4) Entering “00083” on Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Mapquest, or Weather.com yields nothing.
5) Googling “New York, NY 00083” yields 290 results, most of which are property listings through Real Estate Websites on Central Park West or South, which are obviously not correct. To contrast, Googling "New York, NY, 10001" yields about 28 million results.
The only mitigating evidence I can find in favor is that if you enter "00083" on OasisNYC it directs to Central Park (I don't know what base files Oasis is using for Zip Code data). To a lesser extent, there are also a few websites (myplayground.com, openwifinyc.com, citi-date.com) that list places in Central Park as having a "00083" zip code.
On the surface, it looks like there's nothing official about 00083 at all, but that it somehow has gained a toehold in the general public consciousness. If anyone wants to look into how Central Park got an Urban Legend Zip Code, it’d be an interesting story.