Although the detailed analysis of New York neighbourhoods was mostly lost on me – I stopped reading once I came across sentences like “the average two-bedroom rental is $2,275,” something that, from here in Prince Edward Island, seems like science fiction – I quite enjoyed the introduction to New York magazine’s The Best Places to Live in NYC issue (emphasis mine):
Neighborhoods are like geologic formations, carved out by a million insignificant decisions, a million vague sensations that I’m comfortable here. They are constantly in flux, shaped by currents of migration, prosperity, and decline, by a developer’s ambition, and by the random flutterings of fashion. That’s true now, as areas that were once grim and bedraggled get refurbished. It was true a century ago, when the subway bound the farthest reaches of Brooklyn to Manhattan’s breast. And it was true when the city was hardly more than a rustic Dutch hamlet.
I like the way that paragraph captures the true nature of neighbourhoods, how they are a product of a chaotic swirl of individual actions and impressions rather than a product of deliberate planning. Planning can nudge and help to shape, but ultimately it’s a small part of how neighbourhoods come to be, and how they feel.