New York City neighborhoods where the most common language spoken at home isn't English stand out on web developer and designer Jill Hubley's latest census map like islands: deep blue Spanish in Sunset Park; mint green Yiddish in Hasidic Williamsburg and a portion of Crown Heights; fuchsia Russian in Brighton Beach.
Hubley, who also brought us maps of the city's tree species, toxic spills, and greenhouse gas emissions by building, designed the Languages of NYC map to complement her analog map of Queens languages, which was on display at the Queens Museum this past weekend.
The web version uses the United State Census Bureau's American Community Survey, hence the somewhat random application of specificity (we get Thai, Urdu and Laotian, then "Other Asian Languages" and "Other Pacific Island Languages" and the maddeningly broad "African Languages").
According to the federal government, the 2014 data on languages spoken at home is used to determine how to print voting materials and public health notices by census tract.
"The data collection needs to be looked at a little more," Hubley cautioned on Monday afternoon. "If you look at Rikers Island it's French Creole and if you look at Central Park it's Vietnamese."
Still, it's fun to select for one specific language and see where it crops up. "There's more Tagalog than I expected," Hubley added.
While the map's "All Languages" tab is its most accurate display of New York's distinct cultural enclaves, we also suggest filtering the map for "Exclude English" and "Exclude English and Spanish"—cut the city's most predominant languages out of the picture, and you get a kaleidoscope of runners-up.
Take Staten Island: English dominates with the exception of a few tiny pockets on the north shore. But cut English out, and the map reveals Russian-speaking households on the eastern waterfront, Spanish to the north, and Italian and Chinese in the center.