What makes a neighborhood safe? Liliana B.

During our previous class, we discussed Jane Jacobs’ article on cities and what made some safer than others. One of the main points she made was that sidewalks played an essential role, such that if people felt safe walking on the streets, then they generally felt safe in their neighborhoods. What then contributes to one feeling safe walking down a sidewalk? Jacobs proposes three ideas: the clear division of public and private space, the necessity of having eyes on the streets at all times, and finally, that there must be people walking on them regularly. To me, her second point stands out the most. Growing up in Brooklyn, I understood from an early age that I was safe in my neighborhood as long as familiar faces were watching over it. This included the grocery store’s owners who watched from within their store; the old lady who would lean out her window in the afternoon observing what went on; and ironically, the other children who constantly played outside their homes. They all provided me with a sense of familiarness and therefore, I felt safer than in any other neighborhoods. However, as I grew up, my neighborhood began to undergo a change in its population. No longer was the hispanic lady watching over her window, it was now a group of white young adults sitting on their fire escape smoking. The children had grown up and ventured out of the neighborhood. Replacing them were construction workers, who as familiar as they became, were not the least bit friendly. As for the grocery store’s owners, they were still there, offering the only familiarness in an ongoing process of change. So what happens when amidst all this change, my family is one of the only remaining hispanic ones? We begin to feel like newcomers, or worse, outsiders. As a result, we do not feel as safe as we once felt, even though  there hasn’t been an incident yet to justify our uneasiness. But without the original eyes watching the street, without this familiarness, we do not feel as safe as before in our neighborhood. Going back to Jacobs’ article, I think she did a great job at providing examples of how having eyes on the streets makes all the difference when evaluating whether one feels safe or not in the neighborhood. 

Brooklyn Streets

Brooklyn Streets

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