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Brooklyn > Manhattan: the Soundness of Studies

Brooklyn > Manhattan: the Soundness of Studies

Some crazy-smart dude with a fancy calculator who’s basically the Nostradamus of politics just decided to rank the best neighborhoods in New York City. And guess what, mofos? My little neck of the woods, Park Slope, was named as the best place to live in this giant orifice. That’s right, Manhattan, so why don’t you go ahead and stick that in your pipe and smoke it, courtesy of Brooklyn, your bigger and better neighbor.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have nothing but love for the Slope. Which is mostly due to the lack of birth control that is apparently plaguing the residents. Park Slope is the natural mating ground of the Ivy-League grad (there will occasionally be cross breeding with Swarthmore, Oberlin, and even Bates grads, but this is a great source of shame for the neighborhood and is not talked about in public). When I first moved here I thought there might be some strange genetic anomaly, because all the black women were having white babies. It turns out it’s just that everyone hires a Jamaican nanny and raises the seed in absentia. The only supermarket with good prices and good produce is a coop that requires that all members actually work. The atmosphere of the neighborhood is very similar to Berkeley, but even snobbier and a lot less diverse, and a lot less genuine. There are actually debates about whether parents should be allowed to bring their children into bars. Because, if you’re working all the time, your limited free time shouldn’t have to be split between being a responsible parent and getting drunk.

But to be fair, I hate everything. And I’ve gotta say, I probably hate Park Slope, and Brooklyn as a whole, a lot less than I hate any other place in New York. I live blocks away from a park that is undoubtedly better than Manhattan’s giant overcrowded rectangle. There aren’t many buildings over four stories, so I get to see the sun for more than 90 minutes per day. And the architecture is actually pleasant to look at. I find this all pretty important considering New York is a city with just about zero natural beauty. I’m tired of all the Manhattan asswipes assuming that everyone in Brooklyn can’t afford to live on the island, and as soon as we start making five figures we’ll jump ship.

But this got me thinking about the subject I love to talk about and teach the most: the LSAT. Well, that’s not true at all. Trying to come up with a blog got me to start procrastinating, which lead to finding this study. But I digress. The point is, any conclusions made based on a study have to be intelligibly related to the data. The conclusion here is that Park Slope is the “most livable” neighborhood. But what is that based on?

Nate Silver, the statistician who came up with this, considered a number of different factors, and gave them different weights, as follows:

Housing Cost: 25 percent
Transit: 13 percent
Shopping and Services: 9 percent
Safety: 8 percent
Restaurants: 8 percent
Schools: 6 percent
Diversity: 6 percent
Creative Capital: 6 percent
Housing Quality: 5 percent
Green Space: 5 percent
Health and Environment: 5 percent
Nightlife: 4 percent

So to agree with the conclusions, you would have to agree with these premises. Does a weighting like this mean “most livable?” Mayhaps not.

First of all, there is the housing cost issue. If you absolutely can’t afford to live in some of the more expensive neighborhoods, then it’s going to be an issue. But it sort of does matter for everybody. Even if you can afford an apartment in Tribeca, you could get a much bigger, better place in almost any neighborhood. The only way the housing cost leaves the fray is if money is truly no object. But if that’s the case for you, please refer to the aforementioned pipe [euphemism] and smoke it [euphemism].

Then transit. Honestly, I don’t know if 13 percent is high enough. Spending hours per day on the subway, sometimes with homeless people who have epic yeast infections, really does bring down your quality of life. Probably one of the biggest downsides to Park Slope is that it takes a while to get anywhere. And I’m in the closer part of Brooklyn.

Then stuff like safety. If you’ve moved from Ohio and think Harlem is the ghetto, you’re probably going to put that pretty high on the list. If you have any sort of street smarts, you might not feel the need to live in a gated community. Same for schools. If you’ve got a litter to look after, that actually means something, but for the rest of us it’s pretty irrelevant.

So if you don’t agree with the priority distributions, you wouldn’t agree with the conclusions. Because of this, Nate actually included a calculator so you can change your priorities. If you take out any sort of affordability, the West Village, Tribeca, and Soho shoot to the top (somebody stop the presses). Remove the safety factor, and the Lower East Side is coming in at number one.

I do think Park Slope is probably one of the best neighborhoods, in spite of its many faults. We’ve got an awesome park. The nightlife is really good, and the reason to go to Manhattan is to meet the people, not because there are better bars. But different people have different priorities. If you’re really into being a stuffy white dude from old money, or like neighborhoods that are exceedingly boring, then there’s the Upper East Side. Maybe you’re a giant hipster tool? Well then Williamsburg might be for you. Huge alcoholic who needs to live where you drink? The LES is calling.

All in all, I think this is a pretty good distribution of priorities. But I jimmied with the calculator to match what I really think is important. Under my criteria, Park Slope came in second, behind Brooklyn Heights. Would I rather live in Brooklyn Heights? Honestly, it might make me a sellout tool, but maybe. That place is pretty damn nice. I feel like the biggest thing the Slope has over the Heights is Prospect Park, but now with Brooklyn Bridge park sort-of opening, Brooklyn Heights is looking even better. But third on the list is Tribeca. Honestly, I’d rather live in a Latvian cave than Tribeca. DUMBO was 7th. Again, Latvian cave.

So even if you adjust and agree with the distributions, it’s still not guaranteed to give you the “most livable” neighborhood based on your priorities. Because there’s always that extra factor that you can only judge by walking around a place and experiencing it for yourself. So the point of this is that any conclusions based on a study have to follow from the data. And for this one, strictly speaking, it all depends on how you define “most livable.” If you agree that this data and only this data, calculated in a specific way, is the entire determinant of neighborhood greatness, then yes, the conclusion would be valid. Otherwise not.