This article brought to you by a donation to the Writer’s Fund by Paulie Gee’s.

Neighborhoods are notoriously tricky things to pin down, especially in New York.  While we all love jumping on the poor guy who tries to annex McCarren Park for Williamsburg, the truth of the matter is that neighborhoods grow and contract like families and are based on common consensus rather than the legal boundaries that govern more exact areas such as congressional districts and zip codes.  So, we’re going to hit you all up for a little consensus.

I’m using a method for identifying neighborhoods presented by Elyzabeth Gaumer from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development at a geography conference in 2012.

Here’s how it works:  at this Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Market we’ll have a table set up with some basic forms.  You stop by and fill one out anonymously.  The form has two general survey questions – your age range and how long you’ve lived in the neighborhood – and a blank space for you to map the neighborhood as you imagine it.  I don’t give you a background map to use on purpose: I’m interested in how you think about it without a prompt.

Can’t make it to the market?  You can also download the form here (PDF) and fill it out and email it to us at greenpointers (at)  If you print it out and draw on it, a photo of the form is fine as long as we can read the text you wrote.


A few days after the market I’ll go through all of the responses and digitize your drawings of the neighborhood using mapping software.  Once that’s done, I’ll overlay all of the drawings on top of one another.  The result is a cool-looking graphic that shows what areas of the neighborhood we all agree on at the core and the areas that are a bit more vague around the edges where consensus isn’t as complete.  I’ll turn this into a finished map that everyone can then disagree with.


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  1. “the truth of the matter is that neighborhoods grow and contract like families and are based on common consensus rather than the legal boundaries”

    yeahhhh, not really.

    If a broker tells me “I’ve got a great apt in Clinton Hill at Bedford and Fulton,” it’s still Bedford Stuyvesant no matter the general consensus.

    1. I think you’ve got “common consensus” confused with “people who will say anything to move apartments.” There’s still no legal boundary defined for neighborhoods.

    1. They’re certainly quite close in many cases (such as 11222 and 11211), but they’re not intentionally analogous and in many cases are too broad. Also, given how big a pain it is to alter zip code boundaries, they don’t react to demographic shifts as quickly as other groupings that are intentionally built around demographics, such as the census’ Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, although those look even less familiar than zip codes.

  2. Greenpoint is a peninsula. It’s boundaries are geologic. To the North and East it is isolated by Newtown Creek, divided from Williamsburg to the South by Bushwick Creek (which is now underground it runs from around Borinquin Place to Bushwick Inlet), and more obviously Manhattan by the East River. The BQE pushed the southernmost part of what is largely considered Greenpoint up from what was around Grand Street to Meeker Ave.

    1. I’m still working on it. I’ve gotten around 46 responses that I’ve scanned in and need to digitize- sorry, but as an evenings-and-weekends project for me I can’t give an exact timeline, but soon!

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