The State of the Block Response

Michael R. Bloomberg delivered his 12th and final State of the City address last week, which turned into a celebration of sorts of his three terms as mayor of New York. Because such speeches are, by nature, broadly cast, City Room reached out to readers for a more granular assessment, asking, “What’s the state of your block?”

Readers, perhaps unsurprisingly because they were not boasting of their own accomplishments, were far less cheery than Mr. Bloomberg was.

Their responses included dispatches from blocks upended by Hurricane Sandy, where residents are still struggling to return to normality. But most complaints were of the more prosaic sort; potholes, noise, homelessness and traffic all made the list. One Bronx resident, feeling particularly besieged, even theorized that dog owners “from miles around” were going to his block to have their pets deposit their daily business.

Many readers touched on the downside of perhaps the dominant theme of the Bloomberg era, gentrification, describing how rising rents and shifting demographics were transforming their streets, though a few saw some benefits in the changes.

And, finally, there were acknowledgments of small and large pleasures of life in this city. The sighting of a rare bird. The comfort of a corner coffeehouse. The pride in a neighborhood.

Here is a sampling of the comments, lightly edited.

Dekalb Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
The state of my block is: Gentrifying. And almost quintessentially so. In just the last year or two we’ve seen housing turn over rapidly, new outposts from multiple trendy Williamsburg restaurants, and the conversion of the one-man dental practice into a(nother) wine store. Good food, corner recycling cans and new bike routes are perks. And fortunately Barclays has had less of an impact than feared. Of course, as residents of the area for less than five years and with a child on the way, my partner and I are very much part of this change, even if simultaneously, as renters with a modest income, we wonder how long we’ll be able to stay. – Gordon

West 173rd Street between Audubon and Amsterdam Avenues, Washington Heights, Manhattan

My area in Washington Heights, like every neighborhood in New York City has been at one time or another, is a diamond waiting to be polished and reset. At the end of my block is an exquisite escarpment overlooking the Harlem River, High Bridge Park. It has fruit trees and many rare birds that I’ve never seen, such as a scarlet tanager and a giant downy woodpecker. Cool. There are workmen on High Bridge as I write this, preparing for a mega-makeover that will open it to both Bronx and Manhattan residents, after 20 years of closure. We will have access to the West Bronx, where plans include a new and much-needed shopping area, and will also make walking to a Yankee game, well — a walk in the Park. How did I get so lucky? – Max Cornise


East 73rd Street between Second and First Avenues, Upper East Side, Manhattan

Potholes still here, garbage still strewn about negligently by the Sanitation Department on pickup days, the north-south avenues still essentially nothing more than expressways with stop lights. So, all in all, no change. — Smotri

Avenue L between Ocean Avenue and East 19th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn
The state of my block is unfortunately terrible. Since the peak of the market that brought me here in 2006 from Manhattan, the quality of life on this block in Brooklyn has only declined. Ocean Avenue is a raceway with little to no regard to the speed limit, or red lights; I have witnessed countless accidents. Avenue L is one of the few east/west two-way streets from Ocean Parkway, and therefore a thoroughfare of endless honking, radio blasting, and again little regard for the color and meaning of the traffic lights; only double-parked cars seem to slow down some. Real or ill-gotten handicapped placards show in every car window that disregards alternate-side parking rules, to ensure that the street is never cleaned properly, without threat of receiving a ticket; likewise, parking by a hydrant. Trash accumulates on the street and sidewalks, never to be cleaned by property owners, or the city. Graffiti is ever increasing despite the city program to curb it, as are illegally placed posters and handbills, the rules seemingly ignored and unenforced. Children over the age of 16 and adults careen on bicycles down the sidewalk without warning, especially at night, unseen until the last moment. Those sidewalks are never shoveled by most property owners when snow and ice make it treacherous to walk. That honking, it never ends, it seems obligatory, people honk to say “hi!” – David

East End Avenue between 89th and 90th Streets, Upper East Side, Manhattan

I live in Yorkville, a beautiful middle-class and family-friendly neighborhood. It is soon to be absolutely devastated by the building of the Marine Transfer Station at East 91st Street, a plan implemented by our current mayor. We had severe flooding and damage from Sandy and now, sadly, we are to be inundated with garbage. It’s absolutely horrifying how one powerful person can destroy such a wonderful place to live. – Nina Kassman


Bell Boulevard between 75th and 77th Avenues, Oakland Gardens, Queens

I can say without hesitation that I am very, very happy to live where I do. Firstly, this area is in School District 26 — one of the best in the city. The public transportation is superb with M.T.A. buses running on 73rd Avenue (No. 88), Union Turnpike (No. 46) and Springfield Boulevard (No. 27). There is express bus transportation to Manhattan and the L.I.R.R. close by. The shopping is excellent, with a new Fairway in Douglaston. All in all, Oakland Gardens is just great. – Stephen Folkson


Berry Street between South Third and South Fourth Streets, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

To the visitor it probably looks O.K., but to residents, we have been enduring one construction project after another while we wait for the biggest one yet. Dust, dirt, noise, pounding, trucks, obstructed sidewalks. And Realtors, tourists and folks from out of the neighborhood moving in, displacing existing folks and raising the price of everything. The development of Kent Avenue as a boulevard, rather than the truck route it was, is of benefit to the big condos, but it has pushed all manner of heavy traffic and trucking and attendant pollution away from the waterfront, and right into a residential area. – Ellen

Greene Avenue between Classon and Franklin Avenues, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Block is a mixed bag. Five years ago it was kind of a no-man’s land. Vacant lots. Empty buildings. Realtor called it Clinton Hill. Took six months to realize it was Bed-Stuy.

But that was then. Today Bed-Stuy has cred! In ’07 there were no services within a half mile, apart from two ratty bodegas. Today a vegan bakery across the street, wine bar on each corner, hipster coffeehouse, Zagat-rated restaurant with wood-burning stove, an offensively overpriced artisanal cheese/grocery joint. In ’07 I felt conspicuous. One of the only white people on the block. Now it has flipped. Where did they go? The older families (who own) are still here. But the renters have been washed away like ants with a garden hose. Turns out they were black, and have been replaced by renters who are white and in their 20s.

We even have a frat guy who, shortly after arriving, got a vanity plate for his giant Hummer that says King of Brooklyn. – Jon Greene


West End Avenue south of 70th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan

It is sad. Definitely worse over the Bloomberg years, particularly since about 2005. It is dirtier, more crowded, more high-rise luxury building and much more expensive. More homeless people. Neighborhood stores forced out due to rent increases and replaced by chains. (Many nail stores but hardly any bookstores — sad commentary on our priorities.) Bus service has been reduced and bus routes have been eliminated, seemingly in deference to Bloomberg bike lane implementation. Bike lanes have wrecked Columbus Avenue and other places in Manhattan. Trader Joe’s moved in and completely transformed and impacted a multiblock area — in a negative way: Much more garbage on the streets, many shoppers who overwhelm the sidewalks (many hipsters from out of the neighborhood who shop there and looking at their phones, bump into old people on the sidewalk) and much more traffic. The mayor’s goal has been to ensure a city that is attractive for the very wealthy and young yuppies, and he has implemented policies and focused city spending to do so. – Kate

Jackson Avenue between 44th Drive and 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

I live on a block between the Citibank building and Queens Plaza. It’s what is supposed to become the commercial center of Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens. My building is one of the only properties not owned by Rockrose at this point. Now a 400-family high-rise is going up behind our little walk-up. There are two condos being built across the street next to the Sculpture Center. Dutch Kills Bar is bumpin’ and has a new kitchen, a new art organization called Art Wanted has just moved in, and I am told M. Wells will be coming here soon too. So all in all, yeah, a lot is happening in my neck of the woods. I just hope I can stay to see it all. – Holly

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