Jay Walljasper on the neighborhood as resource for changing the world:
[T]he age of globalization actually makes neighborhoods more important than ever. Neighborhoods — whether in cities, suburbs or small towns — are the level of social organization at which people interact most regularly and naturally, providing a ready-made forum for tackling serious issues together. Even if the neighbors abhor our political views or artistic tastes, we nonetheless share a bond. When a crisis occurs (a rash of burglaries) or opportunities arise (plans to revitalize the park), these are the people who stand beside us to make improvements for the future.
When you get together with neighbors, anything is possible:
That’s because the people who live in a particular locale are the experts on that place, with the wisdom and commitment to get things done. And when you add up all that’s happening in neighborhoods everywhere, it amounts to significant progress. You truly can begin to change the world on your own block.
When I moved from the East Village of Manhattan to Brooklyn, I saw neighborhood unlike I’d seen before. “The city,” as Manhattan is called if one is a Brooklynite, has neighborhoods of course. In fact, they’re most renowned. Yet Brooklyn has them at a different scale and speed. Sometimes feeling like a throwback of sorts to the 1970s neighborhood where I grew up, doors are unlocked, fireflies are a pastime, sidewalks are for bicycles and stoop sales. Within a month of moving to Carroll Gardens, I’d been offered protection, welcome-baked-goods, was heading up some sort of block-party planning committee. In my decade here, I’ve been locked out, walked in on, delighted, broken, furious, and everything in between. And I’ve relied on the people on my block to be here for me through it all. Anything is possible.