Top 10 'hoods

...with New York soul. We walked nearly every block of Manhattan to track 'em down. Let the debate begin.

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Photo: Beth Levendis

There’s a passage in Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities that makes Greenwich Village sound like Sesame Street. “I put out the garbage can…my little clang,” the late urbanist wrote in 1961. “I watch the other rituals of morning; Mr. Halpert unlocking the laundry’s handcart…Joe Cornacchia’s son-in-law stacking out the empty crates from the delicatessen, the barber bringing out his sidewalk folding chair…” She goes on to describe the “ballet” that is her neighborhood, a ballet you recognize as “New York.”

Yet that New York has been dying, if not decomposing, for years—at least in Manhattan. These days, unless you live in Brooklyn or Queens, one block has the barber, but the next ten have nothing but Chase banks and Duane Reades. And chances are, you don’t know your deli guy’s name—and rich folks in high-rise condos have probably never even seen him. The disconnect between New York and New Yorkers is nothing new, but it’s finally forced us to wonder: Does Manhattan have any soul left?

It’s a question posed this week by the Municipal Arts Society, which hosts a slew of programs devoted to Jane Jacobs and recent gentrification (see page 32 for details). And it’s a concern that sparked our own quest. To find out if Manhattan has any soul, we walked every block of every neighborhood that could qualify, with Jacobs as our guide.

She had basic tenets for generating “exuberant diversity” in an area: Blocks ought to be short; buildings must vary in age and condition (and offer mixed uses); and there should be a density of people. We added two negatives to that formula—soul killers (i.e., chain stores) and signs of what Jacobs called “oversuccess”—and one positive: an only-in–New York factor.

After eliminating certain nonresidential areas, like Times Square, we were left with 27 nabes. What follows are the top ten: those with the most New York soul. Read it. Head online to see the rest. And then argue. Jacobs would have, loudly enough for the whole block to hear.

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streets

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people

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buildings

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oversuccess

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soul killers

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only in NY

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