Constructed Environments Studio: #13 – What I Love About My Neighborhood – Interview

During my last trip to Crown Heights, I got off at the Franklin Avenue stop to see a new area and do a big loop over both sides of Eastern Parkway to try and find any patterns or separation within the neighborhood.  I talked to a lot of different people having shorter conversations to try and get as much diversity in my interviews as possible, as well as a few longer conversations where I was able to get to know the people behind what they had to say.  I talked to a lot of people on the streets, asking directions for favorite places and streets to get to know how the community felt about certain areas within crown heights.  One of my longer conversations on the street was with a commuter who was walking in the same direction home from work.  He explained how he was very focused on his career at the moment and how the neighborhood offered perfect cheap and spacious homes with good subway lines to his work and friends within the city.  After asking if he knew of any good places for food or drink he answered by saying he doesn’t drink or go out much in Crown Heights, but relaxes at home on weeknights and goes into Manhattan on weekends.  As we walked he ran into a lady he knew and confidently said “Now this is someone you want to talk about Crown Heights with.”

She explained how she almost never leaves Crown Heights between work and her kids going to school here, how everything she needed was here.  I did not want to push or linger too long so after her quick statement on how she liked the neighborhood I said my thank-yous and kept walking.  Going back to my first trip to Crown Heights, I did a long interview with a man walking in the same direction as I was, researching through the same method of interviewing.  I kept asking him how he liked the area, or if he had favorite spots, and he would kind of shrug it off like it was all being ruined.  All he wanted to talk about was how “The Jews are taking over Crown heights finally”, and pushing him and his family and friends out of the areas they all grew up or have lived in for years.  Though I did not agree with everything he had to say, it was good to get one extreme side of an opinion, and tried to use that to angle my questions in later interviews.

A lot of the people I was talking to were in small cafes or restaurants where I could make some quick conversation with someone in line or the worker on call if the place was empty.  Because of this short time I had to angle my questions quickly, and asked not just how they like the neighborhood but how they thought about certain things like all the new building and change in store owners. In both an expresso cafe and a small empanada hole in the wall, it was nice to hear both workers from different race, class, and background agree on the fact that though Crown Heights is changing, the process has been respectful and hasn’t caused havoc within the community.

What is nice about being 21 during interview stages of research was how I was able to go into a bar and have a drink with strangers from the area and talk more in depth while keeping the mood light.  I sat next to two early-mid twenty year olds who were having a small meal at the bar.  One had recently graduated from NYU, and the other was his high school friend from New Jersey, both working in the video game industry.  They both loved living in Crown Heights because it helped them generate a savings while also allowing them to go out and eat out often.  We did some quick math together trying to decide how much savings on can actually expect from moving to the area, and could save you hundreds if not thousands a month when rent is in the picture as well.  They did however point of some of the downfalls including variety of restaurants, meeting new people, and feeling more of a local in their personal hub in Manhattan rather than at home because of their daily schedules and pit-stops not always taking place in Crown Heights.  This was an interesting point as I think about my morning walk or bike ride to school, the people I see and the, coffee I may get, often happens closer to school than at home, making you feel comfortable much further away from home if home is in Brooklyn.


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