We've always been well aware that neighborhoods are a tricky thing to define - growing up we were never really clear if we lived in the East Village, NoHo or the Lower East Side - but this wonderful article by Manny Fernandez in today's Metro section still managed to surprise us with just how hard it can be. Especially in places where the populations have constantly turned over rapidly and dramatically. For instance the only New York borough on mainland America, the Bronx:
According to a Department of City Planning map of the city’s neighborhoods, the Bronx has 49 [neighborhoods]. The map publisher Hagstrom identifies 69. The borough president, Adolfo Carrión Jr., says 61. The Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, in a listing of the borough’s community boards, names 68. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, lists 44.
How's that for a discrepancy! So where did all the uncertainty rise from? According to Lloyd Ultan, a Bronx historian who the article focuses on, the confusion started after WWI when the borders of the boroughs many villages became blurred followed by an "ethnic changeover" that "was so quick that very few people remained who could inform the newcomers about the nature of the neighborhood, where it was, what even the name was.” Instead, most people identify with the streets they live on more than anything else. Suddenly we don't feel so bad about asking friends from the Bronx to be more specific when they tell us where they live.