It’s no secret that the defined boundaries of New York neighborhoods are largely fluid and arbitrary. For evidence, see Tribeca, Noho, the split of the East Village from Lower East Side, and the invention of “East Williamsburg,” all largely the creation of real estate brokers (and the despair of longtime residents).
There’s got to be a better way, right?
According to Google, that way would be crowd-sourcing, with their “Map Maker” feature largely turning the work over to anyone who cares to add their input.
But, the New York Times reports, they’re not letting things descend into an absolute free-for-all, hiring trusted volunteers (“regional expert reviewers”) such as Brooklyn resident Matthew Hyland, whose job it is to approve and research user-submitted changes. Recently, for instance, Hyland rejected the creation of “RAMBO,” a proposed term for the area Right Around Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
Hyland is also responsible for expanding Gowanus’ border one block (encroaching on Carroll Gardens), though the neighborhood’s new definition still fails to include the Gowanus Houses housing project, a fact that has riled up locals.
So, what does it all mean? Will gentrifying gentrifiers (and assorted local crazies) use this opportunity to shatter the already delicate ecosystem of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods?
Probably not. While it’s always tempting to say something apocalyptic about neighborhoods changing, the internet existing, etc., this actually might not be the worst system. As one expert pointed out to the Times, “the telephone company once decided which neighborhood you were in.”
Plus, it’s comforting that someone out there is at least trying to keep the overactive imagination of the real estate market in check.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.