During my interviews of the folks in my neighborhood, I found that 3 of the four people that I spoke with told me that we lived in one of the most diverse sections of the city. I know that the word “diversity” is one of the new buzz words of the last decade but after speaking with the people in the neighborhood, at school, in the stores, and seeing the stats I believe that my neighbors are spot-on in their assessment.
There are just as many homeowners as there are renters living in the homes surrounding my neighborhood. As you walk down the streets within a couple mile radius, there are many multi-cultural restaurants and churches from Greek, Irish, American, Jamaican, Catholic, Episcopalian, Islam, Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran. There are parks, bike paths, schools—both public and private, colleges, libraries, and a couple of marinas. The music can be heard on certain days playing from the church across the street. The neighborhood has anywhere from the Mom and Pop to corporate businesses/restaurants and thrift stores to Macy’s. We have people driving old beat up cars, SUV’s, and Mercedes, walking, riding bikes, and taking public transportation for work and play. There is one thing that I can say about my neighborhood; there are people outside all the time day or night, snow or rain, cloudy or sunshine.
The statistics below show that this area of Rochester (the 14609 zip code) is fairly diverse and they will give you a baseline for the area.
Household type by relationship:
3,926 married couples with children.
5,018 single-parent households (791 men, 4,227 women).
83.6% of residents of 14609 zip code speak English at home.
10.2% of residents speak Spanish at home
4.5% of residents speak other Indo-European language at home
0.8% of residents speak Asian or Pacific Island language at home
1.0% of residents speak other language at home
Foreign born population: 3,041 (7.5%) (65.3% of them are naturalized citizens)
Races in zip code 14609:
White population: 20,798
Black population: 13,520
Hispanic or Latino population: 6,466
American Indian population: 115
Asian population: 419
Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander population: 6
Other race population: 97
Two or more races population: 1,150
One of the residents named Kurt is a middle aged white man who has lived in this area most of his life. He has seen many changes in the area such as a decrease of children playing outside. He said, “I know that there are still children in the neighborhood but I hardly ever see them playing like we use to do back in the day!” He thinks that the kids today spend too much time inside with their computers and video games.
Dan is an elderly Italian man most likely around 80 years of age and he said that the neighborhood has gone from a younger and mostly white area to a ‘fair mix of different ages and color.’ I asked him what he thought was the biggest problem that he saw in our world and his answer surprised me, “I think there is still too much hate in this world!”
Liz is a Hispanic teenage girl who said that she feels comfortable in the neighborhood until the sun goes down and then she said that she will not go out unless she has someone with her. She said that she had some problems last year with a group of white kids that she did not know. I guess they blocked her way as she was coming back home from a friend’s house and started pushing her and calling her names.
The last person that I interviewed is Suzette, is close to sixty year old white woman who has lived in her home since her children were in grade school. She is a college graduate with a MBA and has opened her home up to college students. She said she knows how hard it is to attend college and still be able to afford to live so she rents out several rooms in her home for a very reasonable rate. I know how grateful those students are to have a safe, clean place to live because I am one of her roommates!
As I walked through the neighborhood I have several concerns: 1) there are numerous people that are doing remodeling on homes that were built in the early 1900’s and I have not seen anyone wearing protective clothing as they are demoing these homes. So what happens when they disturb the asbestos in the old tiles and wrapping on the pipes or the dust from the lead paint? These materials have been put out by the street for removal which in turn has the potential to become a hazard to all of those around the debris, and 2) with all of the snow that we have received; the plows have piled it up so high in same places that is hard to see around as one ventures from the side street onto the main roadway. On Hazelwood Terrace and Culver, there is a large hedge close to the street which makes it hard to see even without the leaves. On a more positive note, there are numerous neighbors who have native plants and/or rock gardens in their yards plus I saw several nice garden plots with rain barrels. Most of the homes, although they are turn-of-the-century, have newer windows and storm doors so that they are much more energy efficient and all of them have recycle bins at the curb on trash day. Our mailperson always parks the truck and walks the entire section of this neighborhood plus there is a mailbox on the corner of Merchants and Mellville so we do not have to drive to the Post Office to drop our mail.
The surrounding neighborhoods and the homes have been kept up and are in good repair and there is a sense of pride from those people that I spoke with regarding how the people treat each other. I have to be honest. When I moved to this neighborhood a couple of years ago it was a part-time, transient move. I was not looking to become attached to an area because I was looking for was a safe neighborhood that was an easy commute to the college. I felt a certain disconnect with my life and I can attribute that to the fact that I did not have a sense of belonging to this neighborhood or to my “home” neighborhood anymore because I was here more often than there. It is true that “Home is what you make of it!” I started getting involved with volunteering and exploring and I found that even though I am not a city dweller by nature my area of the city has walking trails, parks, and Lake Ontario almost in my backyard.
This assignment has helped me to see my neighborhood in a new light and I have a greater appreciation for those around me on a day-to-day basis. Although I was only supposed to interview four people, I found that once I got started with the process I kept talking to other people on the street. I now have that sense of belonging to this neighborhood and a renewed sense of purpose to become even more involved in my community.