Surveys are all over the place in their views of the city, finding it vibrant and alluring, but also expensive, stressful and badly run.
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Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll take a quick look at what surveys say about New York and how they shape perceptions of the city. We’ll also see how community gardens play a part in defending against extreme weather.
New York, New York, it’s a helluva town, as the song says. It’s the most stressed-out city in the United States.
It has the most expensive Uber rides in the country and the rudest Uber passengers.
It’s No. 148, second from the bottom, on a list of the nation’s best-run cities.
And it’s the geekiest city in the country, with the most comic book stores and the most video game stores.
Surveys say so.
Week after week, month after month, surveys tell us New York is first in this or last in that. We wondered what all those findings add to a sense of the city, so we took a quick, noncomprehensive survey of surveys that ranked or rated New York.
It’s the No. 1 dream city — the city people dream about living in, ahead of San Diego, Los Angeles and Denver in a survey by Cinch Home Services.
But that survey also said it is not always easy to live in one’s dream city. Of the 1,067 people surveyed, many said they had made sacrifices to live where they wanted to live, dipping into savings, working a second job or giving up vacation days for extra pay. Half of the Gen Zers questioned said they were willing to live in a closet — if it was a closet in the place they had dreamed of.
New York was No. 2, behind Seattle, as the place where college students wanted to live after graduation, according to the Next Cities Index from Axios and the General Lab.
It’s the 58th-happiest place to live, according to the personal financial website WalletHub. No. 1 was Fremont, Calif., followed by Columbia, Md., and San Francisco. New York scored somewhat higher in two of three categories — “emotional and physical well-being” and “community and environment”— but was dragged down by how expensive it is.
And there are rats here — New York was No. 3 on a list of the 50 “rattiest” cities in 2020 and 2021, according to Orkin, the pest-control company. (The 2022 list has not been released yet.)
“Surveys are about asking perceptions,” said Louise Mirrer, the president of the New-York Historical Society. “Look, we all know that the way people perceive New York is taken to be the way New York is. That’s why so many people in the city worry not only about the real crime in the city, because there are real statistics that tell us about that, but the perception that crime has risen dramatically. Look at the statistics, crime hasn’t risen as dramatically as you’d think from the way people are talking.”
Still, New York was No. 20 on Time Out’s list of the 53 best cities in the world for 2022 — among U.S. cities, only Chicago ranked higher. Edinburgh led the list (“one of the most beautiful cities to explore on foot” as well as “progressive and forever welcoming”). New York “feels more vibrant than ever” and is rebounding after the pandemic, Time Out said.
“New Yorkers don’t need the validation or the carping that surveys invite,” said Harold Holzer, the director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. “I think we’re as aloof from surveys as we are from criticism by a visitor from Kansas, although most Kansans like New York.”
And, he said, surveys prove it.
Expect a partly sunny day with temps in the high 80s and a chance of thunderstorms. The showers may continue into the evening before 8 p.m., with temps dropping to the high 70s.
In effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).
Absentee ballots: A 39-year-old Manhattan man ordered more than 100 ballots in the names of others, including politicians and journalists. He called it “a hobby.” Now he’s under arrest.
Political ploy? The decision to release the man who is accused of attacking Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor, was seen by some Democrats as a ploy.
Extreme weather is on the rise, which probably means more flooding. Community gardens are also on the rise, which will help make the weather less extreme. I asked Winnie Hu, who focusing on transportation and infrastructure, to explain what small, local green spaces can do.
How do community gardens figure in controlling flooding?
I like to think of community gardens as the workhorses of urban public spaces.
They do many things. They grow food. They provide open space in a dense city. And they help control flooding by soaking up rainwater that would otherwise flow into the streets and down into the sewer system. The gardens basically trap the rainwater so that it cannot go anywhere else. It just goes into the soil and stays there. A lot of gardens also have raised plant beds, compost and mulch, which help absorb even more rainwater.
The impact can be pretty significant. In total, community gardens across the city divert an estimated 165 million gallons of storm water runoff a year from the streets and sewer system, according to Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law group and other advocates, citing a 2016 analysis.
Drew Community Garden in the Bronx is a good example of why community gardens are natural sponges. Members transformed a barren dump site into a lush landscape of trees, shrubs, grass and flowers that soak up rainwater runoff.
But some community gardens do more than just capture rainwater.
Yes, they are recycling it, too. They collect rainwater from the roof of a shed, gazebo, pergola or neighboring building through a “rainwater harvesting system.” Then they use it to water their plants. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement because a lot of gardens do not have a water source and would otherwise have to run a hose to a fire hydrant on the curb.
In the Mobilization for Change Community Garden in Upper Manhattan, rainwater rolls down the corrugated steel roof into a white pipe that connects to a large plastic tank. The rainwater harvesting system cost about $15,000 and collects up to 2,000 gallons of storm water runoff a year. GrowNYC, the nonprofit that installed it, has worked with community gardens to build 115 rainwater harvesting systems since 2002.
In some places, there’s tension between community gardens and housing. Is the city speaking with one voice about which it favors?
City officials, as well as environmental and housing advocates, say that this is not an either-or situation — New York needs to have both affordable housing and community gardens if the city is to thrive.
But on a practical level, they are struggling to build more of both in a crowded city with limited space, and too often, it seems like one comes at the expense of the other. This fall, Pleasant Village Community Garden in East Harlem, which dates to 1978, will have to vacate part of a garden to make room for affordable housing.
What about designating community gardens as critical environmental areas under state law? Is that catching on?
More than 70 environmental and community groups have petitioned city officials to designate the gardens as “critical environmental areas,” which would give them more legal protection against development.
But so far, the response from the city has not been promising. City parks officials, who oversee the majority of community gardens, say that there is currently only one such designation in New York City — for Jamaica Bay and its tributaries, tidal wetlands and adjacent areas. They say that community gardens under Parks Department jurisdiction are already protected from development under city rules.
When we first moved to New York, my husband was assigned to Coast Guard Station New York on Staten Island. Young and broke, we moved in with my grandparents, who graciously squeezed us into their Manhattan apartment, and he commuted from there.
We parked the truck on the street, and my husband would often start his days off in the truck waiting for the street sweeper during alternate-side hours.
One blissfully sunny morning, my grandmother made pancakes and an all-out brunch with the enthusiasm that retirement affords.
Feeling bad that my husband hadn’t had a chance to even have breakfast, I took brunch to him picnic style, and we set it up in the back of the pickup, checkered blanket and all.
While we ate and waited for the street sweeper, people walked by, wishing us “bon appétit!” and asking if they could have some. One person paused.
“I have seen a lot in this city,” he said. “But this one’s new.”
— Laura Daniels
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Walker Clermont and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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