28 February 2015

on neighborhoods and community


I spend much of my work week thinking about neighborhoods, talking about neighborhoods and encouraging others to care about and invest in neighborhoods and the people who live in them. I also spend much of my free time thinking about neighborhoods too.

We lived in Center Square for over six years. Technically, we lived in Hudson/Park for four years and the past two and a half we were true Center Square residents. Before that, I've lived in the New Scotland and Pine Hills neighborhoods. Now I'm representing the Helderberg hood. In a small city like Albany, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that there are just one or two great neighborhoods. Or that there ought to be only one or two great neighborhoods. Or, if you are from NYC, you might think that Albany isn't a city, as evidenced by a recent question I got from a Big Apple dweller about how I like living out in the country. But really, what makes a city truly great, is when all neighborhoods are great. When you can go from one to the next and feel safe and inspired and connected. When there are services and retail and transportation in each. And when each neighborhood has its own character! Neighborhoods of brownstones, ones with tudors, ones with trendy restaurants and others with small specialty shops.

When we bought our house, it was a transition to think of a more uptown neighborhood in the same way. But yes, there are families, young professionals and retired folks living in both 'hoods. Homeowners and renters. Our new place is walkable, with a few notable restaurants nearby, and we need more. I'm looking forward to the spring thaw so we can get outside and bump into more of our neighbors.

What it all comes down to is community. You don't have to live in a downtown row house, or even a city. (You could live in, for example, a coastal yurt community or houseboat neighborhood!) But that sense of place, it's really important. At least it us to me.

I'm quite not as communal or open-door as I hope to be. Like many of us, I long for a bit of space and privacy. I spent years grumbling about on-street parking and street noise. I daydream for a yurt or tiny cabin in the woods. Beneath that, though, you'll find someone who longs for community. For a tribe, defined by geography and proximity. For face-to-face experiences and conversations. For casual drop-ins, where friends swing by and I make two cups of coffee and slice up the everyday cake that is on the counter. (If I'm honest with myself, I don't really want you to casually drop. So please, don't do it. Call first, ok? Even better, just text first so I can take my time deciding whether or not I want the intrusion. Sorry, I'm working on it.)

I love that we have friends throughout the country and that technology makes it so easy to see their faces and hear their voices. But man, I long for real-life interactions too. It can happen in a small city, a big city, a town or in the country. But place matters, and so do the people that make up those places.


So where am I right now? I'm in our new house in our new neighborhood in our small city, one with backyards and driveways but also with sidewalks and neighborhood shops and some things worth walking to. I'm enjoying our space and the different bustle it brings. I'm a small city defender but still fill my Pinterest board with tiny homes in the country. That's the way it goes.

Related
Our last apartment
Tiny house daydreams

Unrelated
Everyday cake recipes from Orangette, Eating from the Ground Up, Saveur & Smitten Kitchen, in case you have any visitors popping by :)

Top photo of one of our old neighborhoods. Bottom photo of Albany Has Neighborhoods print by Aaron Wilson, purchased at Fort Orange General Store, framed at Framebridge (inexpensive custom framing).

3 comments:

  1. I'm transitioning from our rented apartment in Hudson/Park to our new home in Pine Hills and have felt this sense of guilt like I was turning my back on one of Albany's greatest neighborhoods/areas, even though I know our new neighborhood has everything the old did and is NOT suburban. Your post confirms that I should not feel guilty but proud that I chose to remain in the city and get to experience another great neighborhood. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Allison, I'm completely with you. I battled a sense of guilt leaving Center Square before deciding to embrace and celebrate the chance to be a part of another great (but different) city neighborhood. Enjoy your new home!

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  2. We've just moved to Albany (in October) from salt lake city where we lived just shy of a decade. We moved here for work/high education and we love the area and are exploring new neighborhoods nestled into the downtown area. It has been a lot of fun. I've had a pixie for about 3 years now and saw your blog about 2 years ago or so, wanted to see what your hair looked like today and saw your post about Albany. Your blog is awesome!!!!
    Amber Eunice

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