Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Micropolis: A Look at the Least Diverse Neighborhood in the City
Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - 04:00 PM
Brooklyn, known for its multitude of ethnic enclaves, also has the distinction of being home to the city’s least diverse neighborhood.
All 1,488 residents of this section of Midwood, Brooklyn, classified themselves as white during the recent census, data shows. Of all the census tracts in New York City — 2,168 — it is the only one with a 100 percent homogenous population.
Although all residents consider themselves white, five of them additionally classified themselves as Hispanic, which is not a racial but ethnic classification.
In a city historically known for its diversity, the eight-square blocks of Midwood — bound by Avenues K and M and 23rd and 27th streets — that comprise census tract number 36047075400 unique. It is also one of the city’s largest Jewish neighborhoods.
The streets of the city’s least diverse neighborhood are leafy and dotted with mid-sized homes and mansions with lush lawns. The main subway stop is Avenue M on the Q train. The street is lined with kosher bagel shops and travel businesses catering to people destined for Israel.
"We have no problem selling homes in this area," said Steve Epstein, a 71-year-old retired teacher who once served as the head of the neighborhood association.
He said “there’s no discrimination” against non-Jews in the neighborhood, but others are less likely to feel comfortable living in the neighborhood.
Epstein, who also runs the nearby Zionism Museum, said residents include doctors, teachers, tradesmen and rabbis.
The city's average household size is 2.58, according to the Department of City Planning.
In some orthodox Jewish strongholds, like Borough Park, it’s more like 3.6. But here, it's even higher -- 3.9 people per household.
Quite a few of those kids can be found playing basketball on this Friday, right before getting ready for the Sabbath.
"What do we say in this neighborhood?" Epstein asks one group of boys, all of them wearing yarmulkes.
On cue, the boys shout "Am Yisrael Chai!" The Jewish people live.
Some of the boys are cousins, and their fathers, standing nearby, say proximity to family is a big reason for living in the neighborhood.
That, and the fact that a handful of synagogues are within walking distance, says Epstein, adding that orthodox Jews don't drive anywhere on the Sabbath.
Chaim Deutsch founded a civilian police force in the neighborhood in the early 90s, and claims the block is "the safest block in the nation."
The NYPD and FBI couldn’t confirm.
“While New York is America’s safest large city, there’s no crown for individuals streets,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. “Having said that, we’re not challenging Bedford Avenue’s claim to the title."