Wednesday, July 06, 2005

How do city wards correspond to neighborhood identity?

PoliticsPhilly makes an attempt to map Philadelphia neighborhood names onto a Ward map -- trickiest seems to be how to group closely allied neighborhoods into reasonable groups, so that you don't end up with just as many units as you started with. Some of these suggestions, like "Center City" or "North Philly" feel fairly natural; others are a bit more forced (do East Falls, Overbrook, and Westfield really mesh? how do the Northeast groupings feel?).

I'm not a native here; I'd welcome the opinions of anybody with a better feel for neighborhood identies. In many ways, the boundaries between traditional neighborhood names carry much more salience for residents than do artificial political subdivisions, and thus it's important for grassroots organizations like Neighborhood Networks to know what groupings are likely to see themselves as having common interests.


Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

The names and locations and locations of Philadelphia neighborhoods are inherently imprecise. They represent a mental map which changes over time with changes in deomography, housing stock, and boundaries of political districts.

7:35 PM  
Blogger ACM said...

yeah, I guess that makes sense. then perhaps one shouldn't worry too much about getting divisions "right," and just let people decide which abutting group feels like the best "fit" . . .

7:45 PM  
Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

Further thoughts on the subject: There is no inherently good or bad way to lump neighborhoods together. Neighborhoods are not foreign countries, and different sets of their residents interact for different purposes. A school may attract people from one set of neighborhoods; a recreation center from another; a church from still another; an ethnic restaurant from still another.

There is sometimes tension when new combinations of neighborhoods are put together for some reason. This tension tends to abate over time as people get used to the new configuration and rediscover the common humanity of the citizenry.

Because different people have a different mental map of what neighborhoods go together, it is important to allow people to be a part of whatever group they want to the extent possible. A person may have a residence in one neighborhood, a job in a second, a school for a child in a third, a close relative in a fourth, a church in a fifth, etc. Where that person's primary identification lies is a uniquely personal choice.

7:54 PM  

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