When Michaela was freaking out the other night because I was yelling at Honking Man, she started asking me about the neighborhood and if I was safe to be outside at 10:30 at night. I've never felt UNsafe in my neighborhood, but maybe I am just naive. I started making a mental list of how you know if you're in a good or a bad neighborhood. This is a newcomer's list and by no means comprehensive or even an accurate list. It's just a list of what makes me feel like I'm in a safe area.
I will say there was one time when I was walking a little ahead of Paul and Hannah and I saw a guy peeing against the wall across the street that I felt uneasy. I didn't cross the street even though I needed to. And I didn't go over there and lecture him even though I WANTED to. I rejected that impulse when he started making smooching noises at me. I am sure he was too drunk to do anything but air smooch though. I should have yelled at him. Maybe next time.
Another time we were walking home through the most popular area of our neighborhood and we saw these ladies flag down a police car and tell them how a thug just ran up and grabbed one of the ladies' phone from her. Two guys saw it and ran after the phone thief. Paul and I decided that a baby is worth running after. A phone can be replaced. We agreed that neither of us will reflexively run after anyone who has stolen anything that isn't human.
My list, with brief explanations:
lost found signs - If there are lots of "found" signs, it's good. This shows me people are willing to help each other and I feel like it's a good neighborhood.
trash - The area being covered with trash is not a good indicator of anything other than being in NYC.
multi colored cars - In Dallas, a neighborhood with several cars that are patched up with different colored parts, is often considered dodgy. Not here. Cars get beat up here, kind of like shoes. They are scuffed and bumped and dented just from being NYC cars.
laundry mats - In Dallas laundry mats aren't the greatest places. I remember when Daniel was in the hospital and our washer and dryer were broken. I HATED THAT! I finally found a laundry mat near the university that didn't make me want to take a bath upon exiting. Here, most people use laundry mats. They are everywhere. The one at the corner is has a 24 hour attendant and you can drop off or pick up your dry cleaning any time of day. I will miss that when it's not available to me anymore.
clothes lines - In Dallas, it seems the the presence of clotheslines in a neighborhood could indicate a bad neighborhood. Here clotheslines aren't about necessity, they are about reducing your carbon footprint. Clotheslines are a source of pride in my neighborhood. People who have them drone on and on about it and are sure to make it known that they are better than those earth hating "dryer people." Greenies go to great trouble to haul their wet, heavy laundry home to hang it to dry.
recycling - If the recycling cans are full of the right thing, not trash and leaves, but actual sorted recyclables, I take it as a good sign. People who go to that much trouble don't have time to mug me.
stores with everything locked up - This is a bad sign. We were walking near Prospect Park in an area with gorgeous old architecture and kind of wondering about the area. I ran into a convenience store to get something and realized very quickly that we were in a bad neighborhood. Every last item in that store was locked up. If I wanted to buy something, I had to ask the clerk to get it for me. Not a good sign!
common sense prohibitions - You shouldn't have to have a sign that says "No loud music, no spitting, no urinating ..." If you see that sign, find a different place to live.
shoes on power lines - Although no one can agree on what shoes dangling from power lines means, all the natives I know agree that it's a bad sign.
advertisements - If the billboards and ads in the area are for TV shows about models and cooking, that's a good thing. If they are for criminal defense lawyers, paternity tests, and bail bond places, find a different place to live.
chain restaurants - In NYC, chain stores seem to be a bad sign. Around here especially, people scoff at you for eating at a chain. It's worse than being French.
community gardens - Greenies are always eye-ing vacant lots for a chance to plant something. Community gardens are a good sign.
puke/pee in subway - Is everywhere and not a good barometer of the neighborhood.
natural grocers - In Park Slope, all the grocery stores claim to be "Natural." My friend who moved here from Bed-Stuy said easy access to organic food was quite refreshing.
chinese/mexican combo restaurants - I still can't get used to that. I don't know what it means. I just think it's weird.
Fresh Direct boxes - I think seeing Fresh Direct boxes everywhere is reassuring. If people don't have time to go to a grocery store, they are too busy to mug me. Also, if Fresh Direct won't deliver to an area, there's probably a good reason and you don't want to live there.