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Comments: Week of April 26, 2010

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1. Last week, New York published statistician Nate Silver’s number-crunching analysis of 50 of the city’s best places to live (“The Most Livable Neighborhoods in New York,” April 19). Locals praised the endeavor and the rigor of Silver’s evaluation. “All of the previous attempts at doing something like this were more anecdotal, more predictable, and therefore less newsworthy,” wrote Dennis Holt at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle site. “Like NY Mag at its best, provocative and engaging,” declared Sandy Mattingly on the blog Manhattan Loft Guy. “Silver tells you what he is doing, and why; what judgments he’s making, and acknowledging that other judgments may be equally (or more) valid … He gives you the tools to do that with his data set,” he wrote, in reference to the interactive Livability Calculator on nymag.com, where readers can assign their own values to the twelve criteria and receive a rejiggered ranking. The general high acclaim for Silver’s analysis notwithstanding, it still generated a week’s worth of arguments. Both the New York Times and the Daily News published articles interviewing residents surprised by their neighborhood’s ranking. One Greenpoint resident told the Times, “I like it, but I don’t know why we would be fifth,” while another expressed shock that the neighborhood was bested by Sunnyside (No. 3). And in regard to Harlem’s last-place finish, a resident told the Daily News, “They should have looked at fashion. People up here know how to dress.” Those whose neighborhoods were left off the list took to nymag.com; the residents of Forest Hills, in particular, were vocal in extolling the virtues of their Queens nabe. “The area is extremely affordable compared to other places in the city,” argued a resident. “There is a huge amount of diversity, good shopping, restaurants and bars. It’s one of the safest neighborhoods, has an abundance of all transportation, and incredible access to both Forest Park and Flushing Meadows Corona Park. We even have two art-house theaters.” Among the other neighborhoods with online defenders: Longwood, Windsor Terrace, Bensonhurst, Prospect–Lefferts Gardens, Bayside, Rego Park, Stapleton Heights, and Ditmas Park (whose neighborhood blog claimed, “I’m kind of glad they kept us off the list—adds to the charm”). There was some neighborhood boosterism (“Today Cobble Hill rides high!” wrote the eponymous blog), but a few were less wholeheartedly triumphant. “I’m conflicted about this,” wrote Monika Fabian, a blogger in Sunnyside. “On the one hand … it’s like ‘Yes, we’re dope, it’s true.’ But I also feel wariness. This sort of news is like catnip for developers, Realtors, and landlords.” And then there were those who took issue with Park Slope’s having landed first place. The blog Fucked in Park Slope aired its own advice for potential new Park Slopers: “We are an officially recognized toxic-waste zone. We are home to some of the most sanctimonious people in the known universe. We shut down disgracefully early. We are overpriced and full of ourselves. In short, we are despicable in so many ways I’ve lost count, so please, please: Don’t move here!” Nate Silver also posted a follow-up on his blog fivethirtyeight.com, where he went into fine detail on both the data and sources applied and the metrics used to synthesize it all. “This is a model of reality,” he wrote. “It’s a thoughtfully designed model, based on relatively high-quality and objective data sources. But like all models: It’s a simplification … I think it passes the test of providing some worthwhile information which can serve as a complement to one’s subjective take on the relative quality of different neighborhoods.” He also noted, “I don’t even like Park Slope, particularly.”


2. The ongoing conflict between Hasids and hipsters over the Williamsburg bike lanes (“The Clash of the Bearded Ones,” by Michael Idov, April 19) overflowed onto nymag.com, where comments degenerated into allegations of sexism, religious intolerance, and Holocaust insensitivity. As one commenter wrote in praise of the article, “I have to hand it to the author of this fine piece of journalism. Way to incite the masses, without bias.” Still, there were some attempts at peace among the 81 comments. “Had no trouble with my Satmar neighbors on Division Ave.,” wrote one. “When I ventured into the shops on the south side, I covered up. I respect the community that has been long established there. Are we worried that there won’t be enough skin showing on the streets of New York this summer?” And from a Hasid commenter: “Some of the Satmar uppers are against the bike lanes for whatever reasons and they are the ones you hear about. But then there are many like me who couldn’t care less, who live and let live and are friendly nice people. I wish we could coexist peacefully and don’t think that it cannot happen.”

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