The Neighborhood Concept

A picture of residential buildings around Lower Manhatten

Residential buildings near Lower Manhattan

The Financial District in Downtown Manhattan is well known for various reasons- Battery Park, the World Trade Center, and of course Ground Zero from the September 11th attacks. The thousands of suit clad businessmen (and business women too), the large skyscrapers, and other amenities are a symbol of America’s people. The Financial District, however, was never a neighborhood; it is more a place designed for strictly business and tourism, but very little residential areas of note. A neighborhood should be defined as an area that is easy to walk from one end to the other, where people can live, work, shop, and play within. In other words, everyone has access to everything within a short distance.

Since the Financial District does not have very many residential units compared to the amount of jobs it contains, it is hard to classify it as an all inclusive neighborhood. A ratio of 1 job to 1 dwelling unit is ideal in any situation because then people are living close to where they work and work close to where they live. If people also like to live close to where they work, then, all other factors equal, they should want to live close to the downtown or main street area. Achieving a town or city where everyone has this right requires dense development, which is not only is good for transportation, but also economic, environmental, and social factors.

The term “dense development” is a term that is quick to be criticized. Dense development does not necessarily mean tall skyscrapers or turning a small town into a medium sized town. Rather, dense development means almost exactly what a neighborhood is- small enough to walk across within 5 minutes where everyone has nearly everything they would need. Think of the old western towns from the movies where there’s a main street with a horse stable, a saloon and a general store. That is the center of a town with one neighborhood, and may only be inhabited by 20 people at most. Allowing for urban planning does not mean giving up on the small towns in America, but rather protecting them when done right.

Reverting back to the Financial District in Manhattan, a neighborhood regardless of size ,10 or 1 million, should be people, pedestrian, and transit oriented, as well as economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. It will be interesting to see how this neighborhood adapts in to the future growth. “‘Lower Manhattan is the fastest-growing residential area in the city right now,’ says outgoing Economic Development Corporation president Andrew Alper.” With emphasis primarily on people, the Financial District does have hope of becoming a model neighborhood for the rest of America.

A network of different sized neighborhoods is a good way to plan for the future problems we will face because of our dependence on nonrenewables. The different sized neighborhoods are also a way of catering to what type of area people prefer to live in. Not everyone wants to live in a downtown area, and not everyone wants to live in a small town on the fringes of civilization. Washington DC is a good example of neighborhood development because of the mix of different neighborhoods. As a result, Washington DC is one of the only places that has seen an increase in real estate property since the current recession. Investors or house buyers may consider DC an investment because of the infrastructure it already has. However, contrary to Washington DC, the whole megalopolis, from Boston through to DC, is a poor example of planning, where sprawling “neighborhoods” or “developments” (housing with no economic centers or other necessities to qualify an area as a neighborhood) have sprung up. The whole idea of the neighborhood is traditional planning, and should be resorted back to after the past 50 years of neglect.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, VERTICES LLC

Material drawn from:


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