Steps To A Stronger Jackson Heights
This page rethinks our neighborhood's purpose and role in concert with our digital times and the issuance of the JacksonHeights.nyc neighborhood domain name.
- 1 Historically Speaking, What's a Neighborhood?
- 2 The New Neighborhood
- 3 Features and Advantages of Neighborhoods
- 4 Devolution Time
- 5 Related Wiki Pages
- 6 References
- 7 External Links
Historically Speaking, What's a Neighborhood?
New York City neighborhoods have several origins. Some, like Greenwich Village, Long Island City, and Flushing were formally independent entities that were incorporated into the city as it grew from a trading post at the southern tip of Manhattan to a 5 county Greater New York. Others, such as Jackson Heights and Forest Hills were selected as attractive marketing names by real estate developers. Regardless of origin, today every New Yorker knows her/his neighborhood.
The New Neighborhood
In our digital age a neighborhood is a hyper-connected, collaborative, non-governmental common.
It's hyper-connected in that it uses traditional face-to-face communication as well as the connectedness the internet enables. It's collaborative in its devotion to discussion and understanding all aspects of issues before us. And it's a non-governmental common owned by those living in Jackson Heights.
Features and Advantages of Neighborhoods
Most days we sleep and awaken in our neighborhood. A good neighborhood offers robust transport and telecom infrastructure, enabling residents to access the goods and services that make life livable.
With neighborhoods a key crucible of our lives (and especially those of our children) strong neighborhoods provide social support as buffers and salves for imperfections that arise from il-crafted features. Such neighborhood features include:
- safety, health, and comfort expectations as both reality and aspiration
- a shared history, memory, social values, climate, and built environment
- a complex infrastructure with maintenance needs and expectations
- a multitude of requirements imposed upon it by city, state, and federal governments
- an area with economic development hopes and opportunities
- and with the opportunity and tools to modify the lived environment
Strong neighborhoods serve fundamental human needs providing buffers and salves to smooth humanity's coarseness. Frequently these are delivered via social action. Other times they are just there.
- Neighborhoods are convenient and accessible with near-zero transportation costs: you're in your neighborhood when you walk out your front door.
- Neighborhoods connect people and communities enabling civic action.
- For a range of civic actions little specialized technical skill is required. Often, little or no money is required, with elbow grease and social capital, the currency with meaning.
- Compared to activity on larger scales, the results neighborhood action are more likely to be visible and quickly forthcoming: streets cleaner; crosswalk painted; trees planted; a festival drawing a crowd.
- Visible and swift results are indicators of success; and since success is reinforcing, the probability of subsequent neighborhood action is increased.
- Because neighborhood action usually involves others, such actions create or strengthen connections and relationships, building community with other neighbors, often leading to a variety of potentially positive side effects.
- Neighborhood activity may simply be enjoyable and fun for those taking part.
- Research indicates that strong and cohesive neighborhoods are linked — quite possibly causally linked — to decreases in crime, better outcomes for children, and improved physical and mental health.
We've gone from one a county city (New York, Manhattan) to a 5 borough city. We've moved from a highly centralized city to one that created 59 Community Districts, each with 50 residents serving on a Community board.
Is it time to formalize and empower neighborhoods? The city took an initial step in that direction with the reservation of 385 neighborhood domain names, e.g., JacksonHeights.nyc. But one must ask if a 100,000 population entity is a neighborhood. If we were to compare NYC's neighborhoods to Albany's, NY for example, one would see that Albany claims 25 neighborhoods. Doing the math, Albany's neighborhoods have an average of 4,000 residents while NYC's have 22,000. With Jackson Heights an outlier with 100,000 residents.
With the prospect of global cyberwar at hand, what steps can a neighborhood to declare its neutrality and take itself off the confrontation grid?
The New "Official" Neighborhood
Keeping in mind that networks connect and communities care.
We now have a neighborhood name officially ordained and licensed by city hall - JacksonHeights.nyc.
Let's imagine the Jackson Heights neighborhood in perhaps 5 years, when fully empowered by today's communications and information technology:
- It will be a growing neighborhood. The former Astoria Heights will be firmly back home, joining the south side of Roosevelt Avenue to Elmhurst Hospital. But boundry-wise we'll still be unofficial.
- The official landmark district has been extended to cover the ares following Edward A. MacDougall's concepts.
- having been a pioneer in researching and developing
- empowering existing communities
- using tech to serve resident needs from the nursery to senior housing
- making continuous education a reality
- fostering inclusion
- learning from our multiple cultures
- governed by Town Hall type meetings
- using collaborative directories to guide residents and visitors to services, products, and resources
- creating a healthful civic environment and healthy neighborhood
- speaking to the legacy governance system with one voice.
Not Your Facebook Era's "Community"
A century or two ago, the word community
“seemed to connote a specific group of people, from a particular patch of earth, who knew and judged and kept an eye on one another, who shared habits and history and memories, and could at times be persuaded to act as a whole on behalf of a part.” In the Facebook era the word morphed now become fashionable to describe what are really networks, as in the “business community” — ”people with common interests [but] not common values, history, or memory.”
At bottom, neighborhoods are defined by common values, history, and memory. These are fundamental to the existence we've crafted for ourselves since we first agreed to a common campfire.
But even sloshing our way through these limitations, with an ocean of digital media capacity, it appears we have better person-to-person connections than during the industrial era. But some ask:
In an era of rapid change, privileged as we are to live in an era of abundance, within the greatest city ever, is it enough to simply keep our heads above an increasingly polluted digital media? Positioned to act in a meaningful way, are we obliged to do so? Is the time ripe for another devolution?
Adding Community To The Neighborhood
Neighborhoods foster civic health and quality of life by aiding local communities:
- action communities - people trying to bring about social change
- communities of circumstance - people brought together by external events/situations
- interest communities - people who share the same interest or passion
- positional communities - built around life stages: teenage years, university/college student years, marriage, or parenthood
- communities of practice - people in the same profession or undertaking the same activities.
Related Wiki Pages
- Civics 101
- Neighborhood Boundaries
- Citations of the word "neighborhood" in the New York City Charter and Administrative Code.