New York’s Gifts to the World: Gift #4

Over the next week, many Metroblogging communities will be posting a list of 7 unique things (one per day) that their cities contribute to the world. Being such an important part of world culture, New York couldn’t pass up this opportunity!

Without further ado, below is today’s gift:

I come from Portland, Oregon, a city not really renowned for racial diversity and integration. I moved here late summer, and immediately noticed how many people weren’t white. This wasn’t a bad thing, just something out of my usual frame of reference and therefore noteworthy.

Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize why diversity is such a prized commodity. In a city like where I come from, where the black people are unofficially relegated to the North quadrant of Portland (NoPo, as it’s called–white-folks language for that part of Portland), the rest of the city is mostly white, and when a neighborhood diversifies, the white-controlled media doesn’t really see it as a good thing. But in New York, my new home, I’ve come to appreciate hearing ten different languages just walking down 14th street. I love that I can get pitas in a restaurant owned by the same guy who’s behind the counter (or maybe his nephew) from halfway around the world. I love that I might not be able to understand the guy behind the bodega counter, but he knows me from my nightly dutch-and-candy runs.

But there are whispers: real-estate brokers are chosen on their ability to keep buildings all-white, or all-black. People who can’t afford to live in Manhattan (most, unsurprisingly) have to move into one of the boroughs, and I hear that those are just as segregated. I don’t know much about the outlying areas (dorm living in a neighborhood where I don’t have to walk more than 5 blocks for anything at any hour spoiled me this year) but when I take the 7 out to Flushing-Corona–the best park that I’ve discovered–I can feel the truth of those rumors.

Yes, it’s diverse here. There are more opportunities for people who aren’t white here. I’d love to raise my kids in an environment like this. At the same time, red-lining is alive and well on the sales side of real-estate, and the fact that a brand-new NYC resident knows this suggests that we have a bit of a problem.

Thanks, New York. Thanks for giving me a diverse place to live.

Tags: Metblogs7Gifts 7Gifts Metroblogging7Gifts 7 gifts to the world

2 Comments so far

  1. Lisa Hunter (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    Nice post, but I’m not sure that the boroughs are segregated by race so much as language. Astoria is Greek, Brighton Beach is Russian, and so on, because that’s where new immigrants tend to go (and where long-timers stay) for the whiff of the old country — cuisine, foreign language newspapers, people to talk to in their native tongue, etc.

    When I moved to Montreal, I resisted the temptation to live in one of the English enclaves. But it IS nice to go there sometimes to buy English magazines, or to go to the grocery store and know what the word for canteloupe is.

  2. Benkay (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

    You probably know much more about it than I do.

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