Neighborhood Sustainability in Boerum Hill by Paris M.

In Boerum Hill there is an abundance of character within a small neighborhood setting where one finds classic Brownstones, pre-war apartments and the occasional small and fancy apartment building. Within the past few years, the Boerum Hill neighborhood has grown to be one of the more popular and “livable” neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I have been fortunate that I have been able to enjoy the luxuries and pleasures that come with living in the Boerum Hill community without paying high rent, as I have lived here almost ten years. Boerum Hill is quickly being known as an upscale, trendy neighborhood attracting primarily single younger/middle aged white adults, many of whom have families, due to the several good schools in the area. Though a large part of the population in Boerum Hill is white, there is also a fairly large Hispanic community that preceded the Anglos, which adds to the large variety of restaurants located throughout Smith Street and Court Street and the strong community feel.

As the neighborhood has grown, so have the attractions. The surrounding neighborhoods of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn Heights all add lots of charm and convenience to Boerum Hill, with several farmers markets, community gardens, and many other local businesses adding to the community appeal. These attractions, however, lead to a higher price point of living, thus leading to a large population of the people who live in the neighborhood being well-off economically. As seen in a chart on AreaVibes about the Household Incomes in Boerum Hill, over 30 percent of the population makes between 40k and 100k a year, and almost 20 percent make over 100k a year.

The neighborhood improvements also help keep crime low in the neighborhood, making it a comfortable area to live in and safer than 95 percent of the neighborhoods in New York, as stated in AreaVibes:

Areavibes

Areavibes

From interviews with three of the locals, I was fortunate to be able to receive different opinions about the local community regarding their concerns and levels of environmental awareness. The three neighbors I spoke with all had high praise for Boerum Hill and the surrounding area, though each had different opinions about certain aspects of the neighborhood’s environmental issues.

The first person I spoke with, Tad, a middle-aged white, casual and well-dressed married male, who considers himself part of the moderately upper middle class demographic, works as a writer/artist and has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years. Tad, having lived in the neighborhood for a good amount of time, has been able to witness lots of changes within Boerum Hill and the surrounding area. Tad believes sustainability in the surrounding area is an important issue because the neighborhood has lots of families and with that comes a need for good schools, consistent food sources, especially organic and natural ones, such as farmers markets.

Over time Tad has noticed a continued addition of several chain stores to the neighborhood (Starbucks, Barney’s, Chipotle), and unfortunately this has led to several of the local stores closing down. There have been some convenient additions, like Trader Joe’s, and some of the additions allow for people that aren’t as well off to be able to afford living in the neighborhood a bit more comfortably. Tad also felt like the amount of cars was a major problem in the neighborhood. With more cars from the population in the neighborhood rising, this leads to less parking for everyone else, especially since most of the people moving in are primarily making high enough salaries to buy a car.

The next person I interviewed was Dave, a 29-year-old unmarried white male, with brown hair and a semi-scruffy style, who has lived in Boerum Hill his whole life and works in the real estate industry. Dave, as a life-long resident of the neighborhood, added a great insight as to the importance of environmental sustainability and how it is an important topic, but noted that it can be a “double-edged sword” at times. Yes, it is important to maintain natural resources, but at the same time with expansion of the population, it means the requirement of creating more places for people to live, which can hurt the environment, however it might help the economy. Dave believed that the changes within the community that he noticed were majorly contributing to the steady growth of population over the years, especially with people who were not from Brooklyn. Most of this he attributed to the gentrification Boerum Hill has experienced over the last ten years or so. He also believed the community didn’t have any major problems since we live in a well-maintained neighborhood with minimal crime and lots of resources that help keep the neighborhood residents happy, such as farmers markets, various shops (some of which are still locally owned), and a well-established community. People who move here tend to stay, allowing neighbors to get to know each other and feel a sense of accountability and consideration to each other.

The third and final person I interviewed was Roger, a heavy-set middle-aged man with a muscular build and clean-cut appearance. Roger is a deli owner who has owned the deli and lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. To Roger, sustainability meant that the neighborhood was maintaining its appropriate resources for the locals, which was important because it would make a major difference regarding the happiness of the people living within our neighborhood, thus making it a very important issue. Roger, as a small business owner, has the vantage point to notice changes within the community, such as the continuous addition of more professional people to the community. Like Dave, he realizes that further gentrification has occurred in the neighborhood led by many people who aren’t originally from Brooklyn or New York City, but many of these people contribute to the economic stability of the neighborhood and in this way make it far more clean and safe. Rodger also was felt similarly to Dave, in that he didn’t believe we had many community issues because of how well maintained the community is. However, he did think that food security was very good in the community due to the consistent protectiveness concerning the quality of food sold within the neighborhood.

Throughout Boerum Hill there are several good sustainable environmental practices occurring, as well as some that are relatively disconcerting.  Boerum Hill has been good about maintaining recycling and composting practices, as well as supporting several local food contributors. Unfortunately, the continuous presence of many cars contributes to air pollution and the over-utilization of land for housing keeps that land from being used for far better things such as the creation of a park with a natural habitat. In addition, a lack of consideration for energy usage and its contribution to our declining environment prevents this from being a 100% thriving, sustainable community.

Out of all the people I interviewed, I found Tad to be the most environmentally conscious; his thoughts about the overcrowding of cars and his desire to see more local businesses, farmers markets, and schools thrive, are all important goals to help maintain an environmentally stable and thriving community. Though both Dave and Roger had some great ideas, it seemed both of them are just a little less concerned with environmental sustainability. However, they did make very valid points about how even though more people are moving into the neighborhood, this can help with economic stability. Boerum Hill is still a growing community and with well-organized growth it can maybe become a more green and environmentally friendly community in time.

 

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3 thoughts on “Neighborhood Sustainability in Boerum Hill by Paris M.

  1. Jennifer Manlowe

    I love learning about sustainable neighborhoods. This article, especially the interviews, gave me new ways of seeing sustainability. I like that you let each man define this for himself. I’d love to learn more from what you find as you interview women, older people and Hispanics in the neighborhood. I wonder what might change in the definition (if anything). Thanks for your close “reading” of your community!

    Reply
    1. Paris Morales

      Thank you for the reply and great input. I also believe getting the point of views of other tenured residents of the neighborhood would be a great way to add to the depth of the article. Especially if they are women, Hispanics, and older residents who live in the neighborhood, I’m sure their input could also be very different compared to the men I spoke with. I find it interesting though how people take interest in environmental sustainability, however many of them don’t partake in things that contribute to saving the environment. This problem though extends far beyond just my neighborhood.

      Reply

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