Whenever I meet someone unfamiliar with New York City, one of the questions I am invariably asked is, “What’s a borough?” To put it simply, a borough is a county. Each borough has a Borough President, though practically it is the mayor of NYC with most executive power. Five boroughs make up the city: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
As mentioned in my previous post, I currently live in Brooklyn, so that’s where we’ll start. One of the striking things I’ve noticed after living in Brooklyn for three years is the incredible diversity between neighborhoods. I grew up on Staten Island, where neighborhoods are fairly homogenous — the vast majority of residents have a two story house with a 10×10 patch of grass that we silly New Yorkers refer to as “a lawn.” Brooklyn is both aesthetically and ethnically diverse, each neighborhood different from the ones surrounding it. Park Slope, just west of Prospect Park, is home to tree lined streets and brownstones dating back to the 1800s. Greenpoint, in northern Brooklyn, is home to loft style apartments and hipsters (and the Brooklyn Brewery, highly recommended by yours truly). Dyker Heights, location of mansion-style houses, is best known for the Christmas display put on by the residents every year. Hassidic and Orthodox Jewish find their homes in Borough Park, Midwood, and Williamsburg. East Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant are home to a diverse Caribbean population, representing every island you can name, and then some. Bay Ridge and Sunset Park are mainly Italian, while Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach are mainly Russian.
It is only with an understanding of the diversity of Brooklyn that I can get to the heart of this post. After reading the recent articles and blog posts about crime, I began thinking about crime in Brooklyn, and NYC in general. Similar to what Hayley discussed in her post last week, I too was “the white girl” living in the neighborhood that had bodegas, not delis. Hearing gunshots outside my window no longer surprised me. I worked in the King’s County emergency room, caring for patients who had been shot, stabbed, pushed off a building, attacked with a baseball bat, or some combination of the above. One problem with a city as large as Brooklyn is that if you don’t live in the neighborhood, it really doesn’t affect you at all. With a population of 2.5 million, what incentive is there for someone living in South Brooklyn to change or even care about what goes on in North Brooklyn? Or another borough, for that matter? Crime that far away doesn’t often have a noticeable affect on one’s local public school, subway line, real estate rates, nightlife, or personal safety. People are so focused and involved in their own neighborhood that incidents occurring only a few miles away seem distant. Of course, I have no easy solution for this, only a hope that a mix of awareness and need to make the entire city more safer can lead to some change.