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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Middle Village

Went to go see the Christmas Lights that were referenced in this article the other day. The author of the article seems quite proud of the fact that "no guidebook mentions these," comparing them to the (relatively) heavily touristed Dyker Heights lights. Well, there's a reason no guidebook mentions them, and it's because they aren't really that noteworthy. It's a lovely block with lovely Christmas decorations. You'll find something similar in almost every neighborhood of the boroughs during this time of year. Much cooler was the gigantic 10-foot-tall snowman we found across 69th street.

I actually enjoyed the article (as well as this one about the Christmas display at the Garabedian's house on Pelham Park North in the Bronx), especially the profiles of the families on the block. But it's certainly not some kind of hidden find, and it's especially misleading to imply it's a display anywhere close to on par with Dyker Heights.


There's certainly something to be said for writing about what you find on a nice Christmas walk through 12 census tracts in Southwest Queens. But such walks are really meant for blogs like this, not the New York Times.

Neighborhoods: Middle Village, Maspeth, Rego Park. Tracts Walked: Q657.02, Q659, Q651, Q655, Q657, Q669, Q671.01, Q671.02, Q679, Q505, Q695, Q687

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lessons on Abandoned Observation Decks - part 2

The history lesson from the South Deck continues on the North Deck with the other 8 signs (and a much better view which you can see here). Numbers 9,11,12,13,and 16 illustrate the loss of the Battle of Brooklyn and retreat of Washington's Army to Manhattan. 14 gives a short description of the skirmishing in Manhattan after the retreat, and 15 is an overview of the Prison Martyrs Monument in Ft. Greene Park. 10 is missing, and has been since at least 2005 when I was first up there.

Format is the same as the south deck - the first photo is the overhead view of the deck showing the placement of the signs. The location of the numbers on the map after that correspond to the relevant sign - red for the Colonists, black for the British, and the arrows are the troop movements. If you're wondering where 14 is, it's on East 33rd describes the British landing in Kips Bay in Manhattan. The signs with the text written out follow (for some reason the formatting works best in Internet Explorer). You can click on the signs for a larger picture.

Each sign consists of text, an illustration, and an image of the area you're seeing. When you're up there, these images provide some interesting glimpses back into history - you can contrast the city as it existed in 1976 when the signs were installed, with what you see before you today. The most obvious of these occur on signs 12 and 13 where the twin towers stand tall in the skyline.




9. WASHINGTON OBSERVES STIRLING'S HEROIC STAND.
"On August 27th General Washington observed the fighting at Gowanus from the "cork-screw" fort at Cobble Hill, one of the series of fortifications comprising the American "inner line." Overcome with emotion he exclaimed 'Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!'"


11. AMERICANS RETREAT TO THEIR INNER LINE.
"Following the Battle of Gowanus, the Americans retreated to their inner line, a series of fortifications stretching from Wallabout Bay on the North to Gowanus Creek in the South. The "inner line" had been started under the supervision of Lord Stirling earlier in 1776 when it became clear that the British would try to take New York."



12. WASHINGTON CALLS A COUNCIL OF WAR.
"On the evening of August 29th Washington summoned American leaders to the home of Phillip Livingston for a "council of war to decide what should be done. The American outer line had fallen, many troops had been lost in the Battle at Gowanus, the Americans now had 10,000 raw soldiers to face 20,000 well trained British and Hessians, and a total of 1200 guns under Admiral Howe was standing ready to cut off Washington's only route of escape. At the council of war it was decided to withdraw from Long Island immediately."


13. WASHINGTON'S NIGHT RETREAT SAVES THE AMERICAN ARMY.
"All through the foggy night of August 29th, Washington's units silently withdrew from positions along their inner line. Quietly they made their way to the East River where waiting boats and barges ferried them across to New York. If they had known of it, the British could have destroyed Washington's army during this silent retreat. Instead, soon after dawn the next morning the Americans were gone. Washington's brilliant retreat from the western tip of Long Island enabled the American army to fight on - and five years later to prevail."


14. SEQUEL: THE BRITISH ESTABLISH HEADQUARTERS IN NEW YORK.
Meanwhile, the American forces regrouped in New York to defend Manhattan briefly. On September 15th, 1776 they skirmished with the British who landed at Kips Bay and nearly captured Washington. At the battle of Harlem Heights on September 16th Washington temporarily drove the British back, but by November all of Manhattan was in British hands. During the rest of the Revolution the British had their principle headquarters in New York.


15. AMERICA'S GREATEST MASS GRAVE.
The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Ft. Greene Park stands over the remains of 11,500 Americans who died of sickness and starvation on British Prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay during the seven years New York was British headquarters. the monument stands on the site of Ft. Putnam, a primary fortification on the Americans' inner line during the Revolution. During the war of 1812 the Fort was rebuilt and renamed Ft. Greene.


16. THE VULNERABILITY OF AMERICAN POSITIONS.
Here on August 28th and 29th the British mounted cannon and built a small fort 800 yards from Fort Putnam near the corner of Vanderbilt and Lafayette avenue. The existence of this fort and the potential threat from it was a major factor in Washington's decision to call a Council of War the afternoon of August 29th.

Signs 9, 13, 15, and 16 were shot by me. Signs 11, 12, and 14 were shot by Steve Duncan. The photo of the deck from above was shot by Mike Epstein.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lessons on Abandoned Observation Decks - part 1

The first time I got up to the abandoned observation deck of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower was in 2005 when it was still all offices. The 26th floor with the deck was occupied, but luckily the 27th floor above was empty. Once we were up there, we noticed that the deck was actually two different decks - one terrace extended out from the South side of the building, and one from the North side. We went out a window and down a ladder onto the North deck. I was expecting some great views, and perhaps for security to come and escort us out. What I wasn't expecting was a history lesson on the Revolutionary War.

What we were on used to be a public observation deck, and for what I can only assume was the Bicentennial in 1976 16 signs were installed - 8 on each deck. Each sign describes some historical happening of the American Revolution, and points out the area where the event took place on the landscape of Brooklyn some 400-odd feet below. In 1977 the building was landmarked with the signs still up. A short time afterward the deck was abandoned. Since you can see the backs of the signs from the street, they're now considered part of the landmarked facade and can't be removed. So they stick around an abandoned observation deck, a lost little part of an older New York City, waiting to impart their lessons as a reward to the lonely few whose curiosity leads them to venture there. Look up the next time you're in the neighborhood - they're the tiny white rectangles on the gates of the uppermost terraces.

I've since returned many times with many people, and have gotten a full photographic collection of the signs. Each of the signs on the South deck (I'll cover the North deck in part 2) describes a specific action by either the British or Continental army during the early days of the Battle of Brooklyn - together, they illustrate a fairly standard pincer movement by the British. The amazing thing is that as you're reading the descriptions of the battle, you can see the entire terrain - from Staten Island, to Flatbush, to the Gowanus Canal - where it played out 233 years ago.

Below is a photo of the South observation deck from above - each number corresponds to the location of the related sign. To the left is Eastern Atlantic Avenue and Bed-Stuy. To the right is Western Atlantic Avenue, and the Gowanus area. Straight ahead is Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park, and Southern Brooklyn.



The location of the numbers on the map correspond to the relevant sign. Black is for the British Army, Red is for the Continental Army, and the arrows describe the troop movements. The person is where the Observation Deck is located. For those of you not familiar with Google maps, you can scroll around to view the entire area.


View Williamsburgh Savings Bank Signs - South Deck in a larger map

Photos of the signs themselves are below, along with the text. You can click on the photos for a larger picture.

1. BRITISH FORCES ASSEMBLE ON STATEN ISLAND.
"In July, 1776 a fleet of British vessels landed troops on Staten Island. They were unopposed.By the middle of August a total of 32,000 British and Hessian troops - supported by more than 350 ships in the Harbor - had gathered on the island. It was the greatest assemblage of military and naval armament launched by England up to that time."


2. BRITISH LAND AT GRAVESEND.
"On August 22nd, 1776, 15,000 British and Hessians under the command of General William Howe landed unopposed on the beaches of Gravesend Bay. Another 5,000, mainly Hessians under General Von Heister landed on the 25th. As one observer said, 'the Disembaration...exhibited one of the finest & most picturesque Scenes that the imagination can fancy or the Eye behold.'"


3. BRITISH MOVE TO FLATBUSH.
"Soon after landing, a unit of 5,000 British and Hessians under Cornwallis moved to Flatbush to probe the American outer line of defense. The outer line consisted of a terminal moraine, or hill, running diagonally across Brooklyn. Through this hill ran four roads or lanes at low points called passes. American troops were deployed at or near these passes. The Flatbush pass, one mile north of the village church, was at the center of the American outer line."


4. MAIN COLUMN OF BRITISH FLANKS THROUGH FLATLANDS.
"By the evening of August 26 General Howe had moved 10,000 men - or one-half his total force - to Flatlands. From there, while the American troops were diverted by probes of his other units at Flatbush and in the Gowanus, he would launch a flanking attack around the unguarded east end of the American outer line."


5. HOWE'S TROOPS MAKE SECRET NIGHT MOVE THROUGH UNGUARDED PASS.
"On the night of August 26th, the main column of the British Army moved off cross-country from Flatlands leaving their campfires burning. Early in the morning, they captured a small American patrol but, still suspicious that there might be more Americans in the pass, they forced a local innkeeper, William Howard, to show then an alternate way through the hills above the pass."


6. AMERICANS DISCOVER BRITISH ENCIRCLEMENT TOO LATE.
"About 8:00 AM on the morning of August 27th an American scouting party under Colonial Miles came upon the rear end of the British flanking column moving west along the Jamaica Road. The Americans had been outflanked and would soon be in the gravest peril as the other two British units pressed forward to close the pincers."




7. GRANT PUSHES AGAINST AMERICANS IN THE GOWANUS.
"While Howe and Clinton were executing the flanking movement in the east, British General James Grant, with 5,000 troops was moving against the west end of the American line in Gowanus. About 3:00 AM in the morning of the 27th he was discovered on the slopes of the hill near present day 20th street. This was said to be the first formal field confrontation of the Americans with another army."




8. THE FIGHTING AT GOWANUS.
"About 9:00 AM on August 27th General Grant recived news of the success of Howe's flanking movement and began to strike hard against Stirling's men. Stirling, realizing the imminent convergence of the two enemy units from Flatbush and the east, sent most of his force of 1800 to safety across the Gowanus canal. Keeping some 250 Marylanders, he made a desperate stand near the Vachte Cortelyou house until two o'clock in the afternoon, when he and most of his men were captured."


All photos on this page were taken by Mike Epstein - he's a lot more great shots of the building and view here and here.

Part 2 is here

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NY State Gay Marriage Ban - by the numbers

This post doesn't have much to do with Census Tracts or NYC geography - it concerns the Marriage Equality amendment recently rejected by the NY State Senate. I'm a strong supporter of Gay Marriage, and I wish it had passed. And if white people had been more supportive it would have.

Wow - that sounded a bit weird didn't it? Just what does that have to do with anything?

Well in California, apparently, it had everything to do with it. In case you don't remember, black voters in California voted for the gay marriage ban at a rate about 20 points higher than white voters (athought you also have to keep in mind that this is based on just one exit poll). This led to a furry of articles and blog posts - all with the general point that it was black voters who were responsible for scuttling gay marriage in California.

Now, maybe that happenes to be true and maybe it doesn't (in fact probably it doesn't). But the specifics of the demographic breakdown of the California vote isn't what mostly got talked about - what got talked about was "black homophobia." Not just in California, but across America. White people have no problem imagining that, say, white people from rural Alabama will be mostly against gay marriage, while white people from the Upper West Side of New York will be mostly for it, but somehow translate one vote in one state into an blanket overview of 50 million Americans. An unfortunate attitude does exist among a lot of white liberals that black homophobia is the rule, and white homophobia the exception.

Now, I don't know California very well, but I do know New York. And in New York this is most definitely not the case.

Know your history - you could be out and gay in Harlem back when being out and gay in Greenwich Village meant risking your life. The oldest gay bar in Brooklyn is in the heart of heavily African-American and Caribbean Crown Heights, and has been for over 50 years. This history continues today. Let's look at the numbers.

The marriage equality law was championed by an African-American governor, and brought to the floor of the Senate for the first time in history by an African American Senate President and an African-American Conference Leader. 90% of black members of the NY State Senate voted in favor, compared to 26% of white members (and that includes just 71% of white Democrats). Let me repeat it another way - black NY State Senators supported gay marriage more than three times as much as white Senators.

I also analyzed the vote in the Assembly (I'm using the May 2009 vote which is the most recent one I found a roll call for), which narrows the difference, but still leaves a big gap. 76% of total black elected state officials (I'm counting the Governor here also) who voted on the issue supported Marriage Equality. 73% of Hispanic state elected officials did also. Only 57% of white state elected officials did (the one Asian state elected official, Grace Meng, didn't vote). It should be noted that this vote - in both houses - was one of those rare "conscience" votes in Albany, meaning the leadership isn't pressuring you one way or another.

I haven't broken it down any further, but I think it's a reasonable assumption that the only group of legislative officials that supported gay marriage more than black legislators was out-gay legislators.

But somehow, I don't think you're going to hear this in the media. I don't think you're going to see any headlines like "White, Gay communities collide over Gay Marriage." I don't think you'll read any angry blog posts about how whites doomed marriage equality in New York. I don't think you'll hear the subtle narrative among the pro-gay marriage crowd of "you know, if white people just supported gay marriage more, maybe we wouldn't have such a problem getting it done."

Now, I happen to think everyone should support marriage equality as a fundamental human right and I hold individual legislators - regardless of race, ethnicity, or anything else - equally in contempt for not doing so. But I do hope the same people who were so eager to call out black homophobia as the reason why the vote in California failed are equally eager to call out white homophobia as the reason why the vote in New York failed. At the very least I think they owe the black community of New York a "thank you" for supporting marriage equality well above and beyond the norm.

State Senate Roll Call Vote (Dec, 2009)
State Assembly Roll Call Vote (May 2009)

Friday, October 2, 2009

4-corners ride wrapup

Well, we had to overcome fatigue, rain, busted tires, and a death-defying ride down Todt Hill Road (a twisting, 2-lane, no shoulder descent down from the highest point in the 5 Boroughs) in the dark with all three of the drawbacks mentioned above. And it took almost it took almost 16 hours, and we didn't get back home until about 3:30 in the morning. But the entire 4-corners ride was successfully completed by three of us. I personally rode a stretch on each "Broadway" in every borough, plus one in Jersey. The route didn't have the Broadway in Brooklyn, but I did it on the ride form my house to the starting point.

As follows is the numerical wrap-up - I of course had to enumerate the amount of Census Tracts that were ridden. I don't count this for the walking project purpose of course, but it's fun to know. Because we rode on a lot of borders, and I didn't use my strict "borders don't count" that I do while walking, the numbers are somewhat approximate.

Next spring - 12 County ride. Watch for it.

Pictures are here, and you can see the complete route here.

By the numbers:

Mileage
Total course - 96.64 miles over 9 Counties and 189 Census Tracts (152 tracts in NYC).


Starting point - the geographic center of New York City - Stockholm street between Wycoff and St. Nicholas in Bushwick.

14.63 miles total to corner #1: Hillside Avenue and Cherry Street, Queens.
31.08 miles (45.71 miles total) to corner #2: Northwest corner of Mt. St. Vincent College, Bronx.
49.89 miles (95.6 miles total) to corner #3: Tottenville Beach off the end of Surf Avenue, Staten Island.
1.04 miles (96.64 miles total) to corner #4: Tottenville Beach off the end of Amboy Street, Staten Island.


.9 miles in Brooklyn (Kings County). 5 Tracts

31.65 miles in Queens (Queens County). 80 Tracts

.82 miles in New Hyde Park (Nassau County). 1 Tract

1.64 miles on Randall’s Island (New York County). 1 Tract

14.85 miles in the Bronx (Bronx County). 34 Tracts

.07 miles in Yonkers (Westchester County). 1 Tract

2.85 miles in Manhattan (New York County). 11 Tracts. 4.49 miles and 12 tracts total in New York County with Randall’s Island.

5.32 miles in Ft. Lee and Edgewater (Bergen County). 2 Tracts

19.52 miles in North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York, Weehauken, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne (Hudson County ). 33 Tracts. 24.84 miles and 35 tracts total in Jersey.

19.02 miles in Staten Island (Richmond County). 21 Tracts


People
Started the course: 15 people
Total participants: 16 people (we picked up one at the start of the Bronx)

Made it to at least one corner - 16
Made it to at least two corners - 11
Made it to at least three corners - 4
Made it to all four corners - 3

One County Wonders - 16
Two County Titans - 16
Three County Thugs - 16
Four County Fighters - 15
Five County Flamethrowers - 11
Six County Slayers- 9
Seven County Superstars- 6
Eight County Aces- 6
Nine County Nerds- 5

More Southern Brooklyn

With tentative plans to move to Queens in the not-too-distance future, I've been trying to fill in the walkable gaps around where I live now. The last one took me down through Flatbush, across Avenue L in Midwood through Bensonhurst to Bay Ridge. It was really just for walking, not for doing Census Tracts, but as it happened I picked a route that knocked off another 13 tracts I hadn't been to yet. We ended up at 86th and 4th in Bay Ridge at my favorite little Greek Place - Southeast Corner, check it out.

I'm going to miss hoofing around Southern Brookyn once I get to Queens - there's very few places in New York I feel as at home in as Flatbush - but I'm sure I'll find somewhere to comfortably amble on restless days.

Neighboorhoods: Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, , Brooklyn, Midwood, Flatbush, Ocean Parkway. Tracts Walked: B136, B182, B186, B198, B200, B202, B204, B206, B272, B274, B276, B430, B432, B452, B454, B536, BB760, B762, B764, B766

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gut Instinct - Holy Moses!

Check out the review of my "Going Places, Doing Stuff tour" by my fellow cheap-booze-and-racetracks aficionado Josh Bernstein in the New York Press

http://www.nypress.com/article-20170-gut-instinct-holy-moses.html

If you dug that, you can also check out a video review of last year's tour by WNYC.

The excursions are always a load of fun, and there are four left this year. Try to sign up here - they've probably filled up by now, but you never know.

If you want pictures, they're here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

In-between

I've always loved the areas that legally belong to one borough, but geographically to another. The most famous of these is Marble Hill - once part of Manhattan Island, the small neighborhood was cut off from it by the Harlem River Ship Canal in 1885, forming an island for the next 22 years until the creek separating it from the Bronx was filled in in 1917. Today it's got a 718 area code, but votes for Manhattan Borough President.

Another of these are the waterfront piers of Downtown Brooklyn and Red Hook. New York County has jurisdiction over the East River up to the bulkhead line of Brooklyn ("low water mark of the shore of Long Island" according to the New York consolidated law), leaving the piers technically governed by Manhattan.

A third I discovered after this walk through Ozone Park and Woodhaven. On the way to meet up with the Burn Some Dust crew for walk # 32 I headed across Conduit - a major road that cuts the street grid which can only be crossed about every 6 blocks or so - by way of Sutter Avenue to East New York. The difference was stark - neat rows of manicured lawns gave way to dilapidated houses and streets without drainage.

The thing was, I wasn't in East New York - I was still in Queens. The line between Brooklyn and Queens running from Howard Beach to East Williamsburg is the only major land border between two boroughs. While once fairly distinct demographically, the two boroughs have been sort of slowly bleeding into one another over this imaginary line during the last decade or two. Whereas in 1980, your average layperson would have been able to pinpoint where Bushwick becomes Ridgewood, or Cypress Hills becomes Woodhaven, today it's next to impossible if you don't know beforehand.

Where I happened to be, the demograhic and mental border between the two boroughs was definitely Conduit - if I'm a parent, I tell my kids not to cross Conduit Avenue. But the geographic and political border was a few blocks west, running down Ruby Street, and then across a few blocks to Sapphire. This led to a strange little area of no-man's land - Queens Census Tract 44:02.

The real interesting thing was that there was also a slight, but noticable difference between the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the line. On the Brooklyn side, stuff was a little better, and there was even a little bit of New Construction. The Queens side, however, looked like it had been completely neglected since about 1972. I can imagine what happened - Brooklyn thinks it's part of Queens, Queens thinks it's part of Brooklyn, and both boroughs completely neglect it. The result is definitely the absolute shoddiest area of town I've ever been to - if any location scouts out there are looking for a stereotypical 1970s, post-apocolyptic area to film in, head out to the triangle between Conduit, Linden, and Ruby.

Neighborhoods Walked: Lindenwood, East New York. Tracts Walked: Q44.02

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hollis

A lovely neighborhood - went to check out the Jam Master Jay mural at 205th and Hollis Avenue and the Hip-Hop Museum at Hollis Famous Burgers at 203rd and Hollis. It was a hot day, people were barbequing every block, but no improptu invites - oh well. Hollis Famous Burgers claims Hollis is the most famous neighborhood in New York. What? South Bronx baby!

I was scoping out the joint as a potential dinner stop for my Going Places, Doing Stuff tour, which it ended up being. The museum part's a little sparce (read the Times article), but $4.50 gets you quite the fat cheeseburger. There's definitely something unorthodox about it, but it's good.

Neighborhoods: Hollis, Jamaica, Queens Village. Tracts Walked: Q400, Q402, Q404, Q500, Q502.01, Q502.02, Q504, Q506, Q508, Q510, Q512, Q516, Q518, Q520, Q522, Q524, Q532

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's the opposite of this project?

While Going Places and Doing Stuff with Matt Green and Jason Eppink last Saturday, I came across 13 people doing what is, perhaps, the exact opposite of my project. Instead of trying to see 2217 census tracts once, they were attempting to see one census tract 2217 times - and then another 3432 times for good measure.

The Self-Trancendence 3100 takes place in Queens Census Tract 452 - a sleepy, suburban area near St. John's University that's dominated by the Thomas A Edison technical high school and surrounding yards. The race involves running 3100 miles over almost 2 months around a single city block, bordered by Grand Central Parkway, 164th Place, 85th Avenue, and 168th Street - a total of 5649 laps. There is little that I personally would find more mind-numbing, although one person we talked to who had completed the race swore it wasn't boring. Doing one lap, plus hanging out in the park and walking around the corner for lunch was perfect for me, and quite enough to knock Q452 off the list.

We went on to climb abandoned gas cannisters, skip around a playground with this guy, and break several world records. Big thanks to Matt, Jason, Flux, and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra for putting together a great day.

Neighborhoods: Jamaica, Jamaica Hills. Tracts Walked: Q452

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Little Korea

First up in our analysis of the "Little Neighborhoods" is Little Korea. Little Korea is generally considered to be the stretch of restaurants, hotels, and other business that cater to the Korean community on 32nd street between 5th avenue and 6th avenue. Almost all the restaurants are open 24-7 (if you're a businessman who just flew in from Korea, lunchtime is 3:00 AM here), the Karaoke is always a blast, and there's a decent rooftop bar above the La Quinta Inn with a nice view of the Empire State.

Now, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the absolute largest number of Koreans that live on 32nd street between 5th and 6th is 21. Most data is only available at the Census Tracts level, which in Manhattan is generally an area of something like five North-South Blocks by two East-West blocks. However, questions asked of everyone on the short form - 100% data - go as far down as the individual block. This isn't a great geographic division - a "block" is one square block, not one street. For example, "Block 1005 of Census tract 76" is the south side of 32nd street, the west side of 5th Avenue, the north side of 31st street, and the East Side of Broadway, not 32nd street between 5th and 6th.

Still, we can amalgamate blocks 1003, 1004, 1005, and 1006 of Census Tract 76 to encompass the Little Korea strip, plus the north side of 31st, the south side of 33rd, the west side of 5th Avenue, all of Broadway, and and the east side of 6th Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets (outlined below - the Little Korea commercial strip is in Yellow).


What we find is that there are exactly 21 people who describe their race as "Asian," either alone or in conjunction with one or more other races. Now, even if all of these Asians were Korean, and all of them lived on 32nd street, that's still 6 less than the number of restaurants I counted. So I'm calling it now for "restaurants" in Little Korea.

To be fair, however, only 70 people total live in this area. So let's take a little bit broader look at the neighborhood. Even if you just stretch "Little Korea" across 5th Avenue to encompass 32nd street between Madison and 5th as well, adding another two blocks, it makes a difference.


Now the total population of Asians rises to 65 - more than the number of restaurants on the same stretch. Still, that's out of 296 people, for a grand total of a maximum 22% Korean. And that's assuming all Asians on 32nd street are Korean. While we don't have an exact count of Koreans until the census tract level, we can do some extrapolating. In Census Tracts 74 (which encompasses 32nd street between Madison and 5th) and 76 (which encompasses 32nd street between 5th and 6th) 23.7% of people who checked "Asian" also checked "Korean." Extrapolated down to the block level, it would mean only 15 Koreans on the stretch of 32nd street between Madison and 6th - way less than the number of restaurants.

However, what if we count the surrounding area as "Little Korea" as well? After all, 32nd street is a commercial street without a lot of residents in general. Since we have to go up to the Census Tract level to get data specifically for "Koreans," we can use Census tracts 74 and 76. That encompasses the area from 28th street to 35th street, between Madison and 6th, as you can see in the map below.
This is a very, very generous definition of Little Korea. Using this definition we get 365 Koreans out of 6205 people - or about 6%. That's higher than the percentage of Koreans in New York City as a whole, but much less than other tracts, such as Queens Tract 1161 in Flushing, which is almost 1/3 Korean. A still generous, but slightly more realistic definition would be Block Groups 1 of Tracts 74 and 76, which is 31st through 35th between Madison and 6th.


Here we have to do some extrapolating. There are 503 Asians in these block groups. Using the information we gathered before - that in these two Census Tracts 23.7% of Asians are Korean - we're left with 120 Koreans in this area. You could up that number somewhat based on the idea that the Korean community in these Census Tracts might be somewhat concentrated closer to 32nd street.

So what do we have? At most, a few hundred Koreans in the general vicinity of what is called "Little Korea," representing less than 10% of the population. Not completely insignificant, but certainly not anything to portray as a Korean Neighborhood, per se. It's even less than the 515 Korean residents that the tiny Little Korea in the Bronx had in 2000.

As you can see, doing this kind of micro-demographic analysis is an imperfect science for a lot of reasons. And we're not even getting into what kind of Koreans live in Little Korea - old or young, recent arrivals or third-generation citizens, rich or poor. Still, in a city that's as concentrated and changes from block to block as much as New York, it's an analysis you have to be able to do. How else are you going to support claims like "there's more Korean restaurants than Koreans in Little Korea?"

Next up - Little Brazil.

Neighborhoods: Little Korea. Tracts Walked: M76, M74

The Little Neighborhoods

No, not the small neighborhoods - the ones that start with the word "Little." Over on my other blog I make the claim that "there are no Koreans in Little Korea, there are no Brazilians in Little Brazil, and there are definitely no Italians in Little Italy." I decided I should crunch the numbers for a claim like that, so we're going to check it out. Nate Silver would be proud. I'm also adding in Little Italy in the Bronx, Little India in the East Village, and a couple others that NYC & Co (the city's marketing arm) has invented for it's 9 in 09 campaign - Little Sri Lanka in Staten Island, and Woodlawn in the Bronx, which NYC & Co. insist is "Little Ireland."

Now, every New Yorker knows that while "Little This, That, or The Other" might not have people of that particular persuasion, is almost always has restaurants. So as part of this, one question I'm going to be answering for each neighborhood is "more restaurants, or more people?" My quick guesses:

Little Korea: more restaurants.
Little Italy: more restaurants.
Little Brazil: this is a tough one. More people. Both in single digits though.
Little Italy in the Bronx: more people.
Little Sri Lanka: more people.
Little India: more restaurants.
Woodlawn (Little Ireland): more people.

Now, the numbers will not be that accurate. These are all micro neighborhoods, meaning the largest (Woodlawn) is only 4 census tracts. We have to go all the way back to the 2000 census to get tract-level data, and we all know the city has changed a great deal since then. There are ways you can developed trending numbers based on the American Community Survey from 2007 and other sources, but not for such detailed data and small geographies. So keep in mind the question is not going to be "how many Italians are in Little Italy?" it's is going to be "how many Italians were in Little Italy in 2000?" And I'm going to be comparing this against the restaurants I count there in 2009, so the "more people or more restaurants" question won't be an entirely accurate comparison.

Second, there's the question of what constitutes someone who is "Korean" or "Italian" or "Brazilian." Is it someone who was born in the respective country? Someone who speaks the language? Someone who self-identifies as being of that particular ancestry? These are all questions asked on the census, and all questions that can be used to determine someone's ethnicity. Does a kid from Jersey whose great-grandparents were from Italy count as "Italian" if he's currently living in a Mulberry Street tenement with two of his NYU roommates? For purposes of this exercise, I'm going to be as liberal as possible in determining who is "Korean" or "Italian" or "Brazilian."

Third, we will have better data for some neighborhoods than others. This is because the Census gathers racial and certain ethnicity information on their short form that everyone gets, but gathers place-of-birth, language, and ancestry information from only the 1 in 6 households who get the longer form. The census bureau specifically counts "Korean" and "Asian Indian" as "races," but Italian, Irish, and Brazilian as ethnicities, so as a result we have 100% data for Koreans and Asian Indians, but only sample data for the others. Sri Lankan is interesting, because while the short form lists Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino as races under the "Asian and Pacific Islander" category, after that it goes to "Other Asian." So we have potential 100% data for Little Sri Lanka, but it has to be looked at pretty carefully.

We'll start with the easiest one, Little Korea, next post.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ozone Park and Woodhaven

Queens, as you may have heard, is the most diverse county in the United States. And there's a lot of interesting and vibrant areas that are a result of this diversity - generally concentrated in the Northwestern part of the Borough. It's always fun to go visit Jackson Heights or Astoria or Elmhurst and see what kind of stuff you run into. This vibrancy and energy is a far cry from 20 or 30 years ago, when the neighborhoods were much more monolithic.

There are, however, some other neighborhoods that are just as ethnically diverse but are far more boring. Just because people now hail from all over the globe doesn't mean the nondescript sidewalks and houses of Woodhaven and Ozone Park are that different from a generation ago. The faces are different, the neighborhood remains the same.

Boring doesn't mean bad - the area's certainly pleasant, just not really the type of place to go looking for anything of note. But I haven't walked the whole area - maybe I'm missing something right around the corner. Between the J-train and Forest park there's a lovely area of Victorians that remind me of similar areas in Flatbush. It's fairly high on my list of areas I'd like to live in if I ever decide the quasi-suburban life is for me.

Neighborhoods: Woodhaven, Ozone Park. Tracts Walked: Q8, Q10, Q12, Q14, Q16, Q18, Q32, Q34, Q36, Q38, Q40.01, 40.02, Q42, Q52, Q54, Q58

Friday, April 10, 2009

East Side Access

I've walked through a lot of tunnels underneath Manhattan - rail, sewer, subway, aqueduct, and a few other assorted odds and ends. Even in the easy ones it's always at least a mild adventure - there's always the realization that you're not really supposed to be there.

This time however, it was much different. I got in three whole census tracts 120 feet below Manhattan by managing to tag along on an MIT engineering tour of the East Side Access tunnel - the one they're currently drilling from the LIRR railyards in Queens to Grand Central Terminal.

This project's benefits go well beyond just letting Long Islanders have a one-seat ride to the East Side. There's at least 5 other peripheral advantages that I can think of as well.

First, by decongesting the route to Penn Station, it will speed up LIRR trains going to the West Side as well.

Second, allowing more than one route into Manhattan from Long Island provides some much-needed redundancy to the LIRR routing. One of the two tunnels can be out-of-service for repairs or because of an emergency, and there's still a way to get to Manhattan from the LIRR.

Third, this will free up train slots at the currently at-capacity Penn Station, allowing Metro-North the possibility of running regular trains through the underutilized Riverside Park Tunnel into Penn Station as well as into Grand Central.

Fourth, the above new routing, combined with the new LIRR tunnel to Grand Central, will completely eliminate the "Manhattan Transfer," or people needing to get from Penn Station to Grand Central to continue their journey. Amtrak, NJ Transit, Metro North, and the LIRR will all have a one-station connector between any two train networks.

Fifth, the expanded options for suburban commuters will result in less taxi and subway congestion in Midtown (which ends up actually benefiting me, the non-suburban commuter) from less people needing to take cars and the subway from Grand Central to the West Side, or Penn Station to the East Side.

The tour itself was interesting, although heavy, heavy into the engineering aspect (you can read all about the various technical stuff here). The workers have three shifts each day (work is 24-7, weekdays, but usually off on weekends), which arrive via a small work train from Queens. We were scheduled to hitch a ride on this train from the vent shaft at 2nd Avenue, but since we were late ended up slogging down by foot to 50th and Park instead. That's where the interesting stuff is, including the TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) responsible for actually making the tunnel. We got to climb in it a bit which was pretty fun.








If we had gone the other way (directly above), we would have gone through the lower level of the 63rd street tunnel, which was sunk for this particular project in the 1980s. The upper level is currently used by the F train, but the lower level is used only by the tunnel work train. Until they restarted this project, it was one of those great hidden yet accessible spaces, useful for all sorts or things - graffiti, raves, camping out, whatever. Of course, in these days of working sandhogs and emergency exit alarms, it's a bit tougher to get to.

One of the MTA workers along on the tour told me that the tunnel workers ask her about the graffiti in it, and that she wants to research and write an article about it for the MTA. It's not her fault, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. The MTA will not have anything to do with any outside filmmaker, journalist, or anyone else that even mentions the word "graffiti," much less wants to do a story that goes any deeper than "graffiti is bad." Doing a story on graffiti for internal use, while they still hold this policy, struck me as extremely hypocritical.

A lot of people have asked me how I got in on the tour, and how to hook it up. Talking with the Edward Kennedy (no, not that Edward Kennedy), the guy who conducted it, it seemed like about a once every month or two thing, was really focused on the engineering aspect, and was mostly set up through schools, with MTA employees getting to tag along if they were interested and knew who to ask. My best advice is to try and get a professor to set something up if you're in school, or find someone who is and tag along. Getting an elected official to write a letter for you asking to get in on the next tour might also work.

There's a lot of people who are interested in going, and the attitude behind not accommodating everyone seemed to be along the lines of "hey, we're trying to build one of the biggest engineering projects in the country here - we don't have time to double as a tourist site for everyone" which I can respect a lot more than the two other rationals I run into a lot - bullshit security excuses or a general disdain for the hoi polloi. You'd be amazed at how many bureaucrats feel a sense entitlement to the particular public works they're in charge of, and a sense of superiority in maintaining their exclusivity.

Better pictures than I have can be found here

Neighborhoods: Upper East Side, East Midtown. Tracts Walked: M110, M114.02, M112.03

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Park Slope

I'm not a hater of all neighborhoods frequented by a certain income-strata or liberal political mindset. I love the Village. I love (and used to live in) Brooklyn Heights. I can even get behind the Upper West Side at times. But I just do not get the appeal of Park Slope.

Park Slope is an example of a strange kind of social ponzi scheme. The neighborhood has no intrinsic value - no decent trains (unless you're up by Flatbush), no real character, overpriced amenities - its only value for people is derived from having other, similar, people give it value. $2,250 for a one bedroom on 4th ave & 19th street (which is not really even Park Slope) to live by a local train that takes 45 minutes to get to Midtown? Pay half as much to live by the 36th street stop, where you can actually grab a decent meal for 5 bucks and have an express train.

Even though this was the first part of New York I visited in my adult life, and I have done my fair share of schlepping around the neighborhood, I can't really come up with much new to say about it. And anyway, this neighborhood is probably the blogged about, meta-online-analyzed place in the United States. Read what other people have to say about it. The only reason I'm writing this up is to knock off another dozen tracts. I'm leaving off the tracts north of Union which is an area that doesn't really apply to this post.

Neighborhoods: Park Slope. Tracts Walked: 133, 135, 137, 139, 141, 149, 151, 153, 155, 157, 165, 167

Friday, March 20, 2009

East Flatbush

A lot of times a walk's just a walk, and not really through an interesting area to boot. Most of my time doing this project isn't spent walking fun places like tunnels and bridge tops. Still, they're part the city also, and I've made a commitment to myself to write them up too. But don't expect too much if it isn't labeled "interesting" or "favorite." It's mostly for myself.

A few of these nondescript walks lately have been through East Flatbush. Flatbush Avenue has always been kind of a demographic dividing line in New York - Downtown Brooklyn from Ft. Green, Crown Heights (or Prospect Heights, depending on what year it is) from Park Slope. As this line fades north of Prospect Park, it remains to its south. The bustling Caribbean neighborhoods by Church Avenue, the shabby old Victorians of Ditmas Park, the hodgepodge immigrant area by Newkirk, the neat rows of houses of the Orthodox Jews in the lettered avenues, all of this generally gives way to a kind of nondescript, somewhat rundown area once you get east of Flatbush Avenue that I have yet to find anything interesting is, or even get a real feel for at all. I haven't yet walked all of East Flatbush, so maybe this will change, or maybe it's just been the moods I've been in on the walks. Holy Cross cemetary (a pretty standard Catholic cemetary) is the only thing that really breaks it up. The end of the neighborhood is also home to the oldest house in New York, which is worth a visit.

Neighborhoods: East Flatbush. Tracts walked: BK 788, BK 790, BK 792, BK794, BK 824, BK826, BK 828, BK830, BK832, BK834, BK838, BK840, BK846, BK848, BK850, BK852, BK854, BK856, BK936, BK942.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Alligators in the Sewers?

Here's my episode of Monster Quest on the History Channel. I edited it down to just the parts I'm in (about 4 minutes), with the exception of the first frame of the cute zookeeper straddling an alligator. Had to leave that one in.
video

This is mostly me and my friend Shane explaining how storm drains work. Shane is the one filming the sewer expedition, and is the disembodied voice you sometimes hear.

Just to clarify, there are no alligators in the sewers - at least, not more than the fluke handful of discarded pets that have been in the hundreds of miles of the system over the last several decades. Despite what I say on TV to try and sound somewhat responsible, you don't really need an air meter in a 12-foot-deep trunk drain. I haven't been exploring storm drains for 10 years - that was probably only my 3rd or 4th trip draining - and wouldn't really call myself an underground expert (or "urban explorer," which they kept calling me, but there's not a lot you can do about that particular label anymore).   And I'm wearing a shirt and tie because I had just come from work.

The whole thing was a lot of fun. And of course, I got in another couple census tracts while doing this, but I can't tell you which ones.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Little Bangledesh

Had dinner with a friend in the Bangladeshi area of Kensington today, where I used to live. The old Italian restaurant just got turned into a South Asian place. They were having some trouble with the equipment, so we ate across the street.

I hadn't been there in about 5 years, but it's one of my favorite areas of the city, and its commercial drag, Church Avenue, is my favorite street in New York. I wrote a project for grad school about four census tracts in the neighborhood a few years ago. Even though I've taken a lot of the raw data out of this, you might not want to read more than 4 or 5 paragraphs unless you're as big a demographics nerd as I am. The 2000 census is hopelessly out of date in an ever-changing city like New York, but the general patterns that emerge from the combination of data and on-the-ground observation still pretty much hold.

When learning about a neighborhood, hard data and personal observation are partners. If you only use one of these tools, it's like trying to watch a movie with only sound, or only picture. And unless you know how to use the two well together you'll never have a very accurate picture of a neighborhood.

A couple weeks after September 11th, I was walking around the town, as is my hobby. While walking through a section of Brooklyn that seemed to be a regular old Joey Bagadonuts kind of neighborhood, I came across a weird street. There were two blocks of Dahill Road where every single house had an American flag flying or in the window, and every car parked on the block had a flag flying from the antenna or a flag decal in the window. This wasn’t your average borough block at the time, where maybe 2/3 of the houses had a flag flying. I’m talking every house, every car, with sometimes even more than one flag.


I headed east over to the next street, McDonald Avenue, and figured it out. Half the block was a commercial strip, and the preponderance of business were Bangladeshi. I headed back over to the two blocks of Dahill Road and was able to figure out pretty convincingly that this was an almost 100% Bangladeshi residential strip (and later I found out that this little area was indeed sometimes called “Little Bangladesh.)” The community had obviously decided to overcompensate in their patriotism out of fear of being targeted in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. I was reminded of the Israelites in Egypt who painted lambs blood on their door to mark them as Jews, in order to have the Angel of Death “Pass Over” them when the firstborn of Egypt were being killed. It was almost like the American Flags were meant as a signal to mark the residents as Americans in order to have others “Pass Over” their houses if people started getting violent.


I ended up moving to that area, and as I got to know the neighborhood more, I noticed that it had an incredible variety of ethnic businesses and residents. And it seemed like, for the most part, everyone got along great. But did they really? That walk through the neighborhood after September 11th haunted me. If everyone really got along, why was there a need for such a blatant overdisplay of patriotism on the part of one specific immigrant group? That’s when the question of “how diverse or integrated are these seemingly great communities really?” first came up for me. And even if these types of neighborhoods were truly integrated, how long could they last, especially when in times of uncertainty and stress?


Kensington faces enormous population pressures from different areas. In addition to having a somewhat younger population than the rest of Brooklyn, it’s at the crossroads of several growing communities. There’s a growing Hassidic population West of the area. There’s a growing Caribbean (mainly Haitian) population East of the area. There’s a growing Yuppie population North of the area. There are several growing immigrants communities already in the neighborhood. And the older white ethnic population does not seem to be moving out in the same kind of numbers as in other communities.


There’s several ways Kensington could go – it could become a de facto part of Hassidic Borough Park. It could become a de facto part of Caribbean Flatbush. It could become the latest neighborhood to be “discovered” by the young professional crowd. One of the immigrant communities in the area could start to dominate and crowd out the others. Or, it could conceivably go on like it is now – one of the great, multiethnic communities of New York.


Kensington was originally settled by Dutch farmers, and development started in 1851. One of the oldest bars in New York City is at the corner of Church and McDonald, but other than that there’s not much in the way of historical significance. In the 1920s mass homebuilding began and attracted upwardly mobile immigrants, as it still does today. It was considered part of Flatbush for much of the 20th century (back when half of Brooklyn was considered Flatbush), and you will still occasionally see signs on neighborhoods businesses that refer to the area as “Flatbush,” such as the Flatbush Dental Center on Church Avenue. In the 1980s various waves of new immigrants began to displace some of the older white ethnics, and today Kensington is one of the “Melting Pot” neighborhoods of Brooklyn.


Almost the entire area is part of the Ocean Parkway special zoning district. Most of the area is zoned R-5, with some special zoning, such as an R-7A district along Ocean Parkway, a wide, residential boulevard on the eastern end of the neighborhood. There’s a small M-1 district in the southeast corner of the neighborhood. The character of the neighborhood is much like other borough neighborhoods I like to call “one car” neighborhoods - i.e., neighborhoods where an average family will own one car (although in actuality the slight majority of occupied housing units do not own a car). It’s mainly two-and three family homes and small apartment buildings. Ocean Parkway, Beverly Road, and a couple other small areas have larger apartment buildings. The area is somewhat underbuilt, with many large houses where small apartment buildings could be, and if population pressures continue, downzoning may become an issue in the future. Church Avenue on the north is the main commercial district, with small commercial drags scattered throughout.


The neighborhood is really two distinct areas in terms of housing and housing stock. Unfortunately they aren’t easily divided up by census tracts. In many borough neighborhoods throughout the history of New York, a certain demographic has lived in the apartment buildings along the avenues (almost always renting), and another demographic has lived on the side street in smaller 2- and 3- family homes (usually owned by one member of an extended family). The best example of this that I know of is Bensonhurst, where in the 1950s and 60s the Jews lived in the apartments along Bay Parkway, and the Italians lived in the houses on the side streets. The question comes up as to if this can truly be called an integrated neighborhood. Even though you have both populations living in the same census tracts, they are vastly segregated by type of housing. And indeed, people tell me that in general, the Jews and Italians each kept to themselves in that neighborhood. Kensington is divided the same way. Is it similarly ethnically segregated? That’s a more difficult question to answer with the demographic data available to us, but does go to the heart of my question earlier – is this a truly integrated neighborhood?


Along Ocean Parkway there are large rental apartment buildings, usually built pre-war and containing more than 20, and sometimes more than 50 units. The tract with the greatest percentage of it occupied by Ocean Parkway, tract 494, has 83.9% of its units occupied as rental housing. Most startling is its whopping 0% rental housing vacancy rate. This indicates pretty good, and perhaps underpriced, rental housing. Indeed, the fact that all but 58 units of housing in this district were built before 1979, and therefore probably subject to rent regulations, also indicates that the supply of rental housing along Ocean Parkway probably rents for under market value. As we all know, this kind of situation can lead to great upheaval and change in a neighborhood as landlords try and push out existing tenants in order to try and raise rents to market rates and maximize profits.


Contast this tract with tract 486 on the east, none of which borders Ocean Parkway. Here only 6.7% of units are in buildings of 20 or more units, and there are no buildings of 50 or more units. It is also only 73.9% renter-occupied, and has a 3.1% rental vacancy – both numbers are about on par with the rest of Brooklyn. However, note another significant percentage – the 0% homeowner vacancy rate.


This best illustrates the two different types of housing stock in Kensington – older, pre-war, large apartment buildings mainly on Ocean Parkway which seem to be very desirable, and older two- and three-family homes on the other streets – equally desirable. Caught somewhere in the middle are the small apartments buildings, or perhaps secondary units in the houses, that seem to be par for the course for Brooklyn.


One thing that seems to be consistent is the turnover. Almost half (46.7%) of residents in 2000 moved in 1995 or later. High turnover, low vacancy rates, not a lot of new housing being built – the housing squeeze is on. Add to that an increase of 2,171 people from 1990 to 2000. That’s a 12.3% increase in one decade. And only 100 housing units were built during the same time.


The 12.3% increase is mainly a result of the 57.6% of the population that is foreign-born – including 6,576 people, or just over 1/3 of the total population, that arrived between 1990 and 2000. Who’s been coming? Well, everybody. There are 18 different countries that more than 100 people in Kensington call their place of birth. And there are at least 24 different languages spoken in the neighborhood. In terms of numbers, the most significant immigrant groups are Russian (1,664), Bangladeshi (1,051), Mexican (877), Pakistani (858), Ukrainian (798), Haitian (624), and Polish (569). As an aside, there is a large Hassidic community as well, as is evidenced by the fact that 582 people in Kensington speak Yiddish (although that could also be the elderly Jewish population) – and in fact, the ATM machines at the bank on Church Avenue operate in 8 languages, including Yiddish. The Jewish Community Survey, as well as on-the-ground observation, indicates that a large portion of the Russian and Ukrainian population is Jewish.


Look at this – it seems to be the ideal diverse neighborhood. You have a large Jewish population, large Muslim population (the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis), and large Christian population living alongside each other. You have significant immigration from 4 continents. You also have a fairly racially diverse neighborhood – 48% white, 12% black, 13% Asian, 17% Hispanic, with 10% being other or multiracial. And Kensington takes pride in its internationalism – for example, the elementary school on Avenue C is nicknamed “The International School.” However, in an indicator of segregation, 1322 people were born in sub-Saharan Africa or the non-Hispanic Caribbean. Subtracting these people from the black population at large leaves Kensington less than 5% African-American. And if you also discount the children of these immigrants, the African-American population would fall even further. Since black/white segregation – and particularly native white and native black segregation – remains the stubbornmost barrier to true integration here in New York, we must acknowledge that Kensington hasn’t truly conquered the problem of racial and ethnic segregation here in New York City.


Kensington is a working neighborhood – at least for the men. There’s a lower percentage of females in the work force than the rest of Brooklyn and New York, but the male population in the workforce is about average for the borough and city. This might be explained by a couple of things – the lack of African-Americans, who tend to have higher proportions of females in the workforce, the high levels of immigrant men in the workforce, and perhaps even cultural differences among the religious Jewish or other populations. Kensington is fairly educated, with only 24.5% of its residents over 25 holding a College Degree, compared to 21.8% of Brooklyn residents, and 27.4% of New York City residents. When you look at Masters, Professional, and Doctorates the same pattern emerges – Kensington has 10.4% of its population holding these degrees, as compared to 8.8% of Brooklyn and 11.6% of New York. High School Graduates and above keeps to the pattern – 71.5%, as opposed to 68.8% for Brooklyn, and 72.2% for New York City. This has to be looked at in context however – this is a heavily immigrant neighborhood, and three out of the four census tracts have median household and family incomes at least $2000 lower than the rest of Brooklyn ($32,561 household, $36,295 family) and $8000 lower than the rest of New York City ($38,519 household, $42,235 family). The percentage of people living in poverty is 26% - more than the 25.1% for Brooklyn (although it’s not statistically significant) and more than the 21.2% for New York City (which is statistically significant). As a result, the education statistics are pretty noteworthy. Either you have an educated immigrant population not earning up to their level of education, as often happens, or you might have some of the Park Slope spillover – educated young people not yet in their prime earning years.


In terms of occupations, Education and Health services are the largest industry group, with sales and office workers being the largest occupational group. There are a larger percentage of people occupied in the private sector than Brooklyn as a whole, a smaller amount in the public sector, and about the same amount of self-employed people. The lack of public-sector employees is again explained by the heavy immigrant nature of the neighborhood.


Kensington is the best example of why Demographic studies of neighborhoods – especially in New York City – cannot be done without a direct, ground-level knowledge of the areas. It would be close to impossible for even the most skilled demographer to make heads or tails of the kinds of data that encompasses the four census tracts I picked. However, when combining the data with a survey of the neighborhood, patterns start to emerge. You can see the internationalism and diversity of the area (as reflected in languages, immigrant population, and countries of origin), however you can also see its “average Brooklyn” kind of character (as reflected in its economic and labor data). Despite the population and housing pressures it is under, Kensington still remains a multiethnic neighborhood accessible to people of average means, as I believe it will in the future. There are some barriers to true integration – the lack of African-American residents, the tendency of the various immigrant groups to cluster in one type of housing or along one or two blocks (which is difficult to gather from the census data but obvious while you’re there), and of course, the telling need for a specific immigrant group to be identified as “American” were tensions were high. However, even with these things to heed, it’s as close to being an ideal “melting-pot” neighborhood as any I’ve been to in New York.



Neighborhoods: Kensington, Little Bangladesh. Tacts Walked: B486, B488, B490, B494