Do New Yorkers Want to Know Who is 'Nextdoor'?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This blog post is by New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi.

Susan Fox founded Park Slope Parents 11 years ago because she was tired of seeing old exersaucers and bouncy seats put out with the trash.

As a new parent, she realized that selling or giving away these plastic monstrosities wouldn't be too hard if she set up a system, so she created a Yahoo! Group and spread the word.

Every time she would go to a stoop sale with kids stuff, she'd sign people up. Her neighbor signed up the 40 members of her mommy group, and they got their neighbors on board too.

"It takes a while," she said. "We started very slowly. After the first year I think we had 150 people. The next year we had 400 people."

Now Park Slope Parents is one of the biggest online communities in Brooklyn with more than 5,000 active members. The site has dozens of subgroups, helping parents with everything from career networking to figuring out how much to pay a nanny.

I visited Susan to pick her brain and get advice on how to get more people to sign up for a service called Nextdoor, a sort of Facebook for neighborhoods that has been partnering with New York City since June.

Nextdoor was co-founded by Nirav Tolia in 2010. Now CEO, Nirav said he and his co-founders noticed there was no social network for neighborhoods.

So far, Nextdoor doesn't have ads and cities don't pay to use it, but more than 17,000 sites have been launched across the country since it went live in 2011. 

Tolia takes pains to mention that these sites are private and that they verify people's addresses.

"These are private neighborhood websites, just for your specific neighborhood where you know that the other people you are communicating with are your actual neighbors," he said.

According to Tolia, Nextdoor isn't about organizing a block party: It's about keeping your neighborhood safe, sharing referrals and consolidating all the notices that the city sends out digitally.

The startup's goal seems to be to become a sort of digital Yellow Pages, but first it will need to sign people up. In the six weeks since I became a member, only five of my neighbors have joined.  

Listen to my quest to get more neighbors signed up on this week's New Tech City. We explore whether the transient nature of New Yorkers and their love of anonymity might make Nextdoor a tough sell here.

At the end of the day, I'm left wondering whether it could it take another Sandy (God forbid) to get this service off the ground.

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker


Charlie Herman

Comments [5]

Ron Barrett from Park Heights

I think New York has gotten a bad reputation for being "cold and impersonal." I also think alot of folks migrate to big cities to escape something or someone and are caught up in their reality of NYC.

I am taking more risks connecting with people all over the city whereever and whenever including those not from my hood or block. I know very few on my block. There are plenty of New Yorkers who are open to connecting and sharing a moment, if no more than a smile, greeting, or chat. There are plenty of those who make it clear they would rather not, so don't even try it.

Personally I value community and connecting when possible, while respecting boundaries and privacy. I think it more natural and healthy to be social.

Jul. 30 2014 10:32 PM
Steve Williams from Brooklyn, NY

I am a native of Brooklyn. When I was growing up we didn't have websites or apps to help us to be neighbors. Our parents sat out on their stoops and watched us kids play while they talked to each other. We would listen to them share stories about our roots and how they migrated to NY from the South and Caribbean. They would chat with neighbors who passed through our block from the train station on their way home from work. They listened to us while they prepared dinner and could sense when something was wrong.

Our dad's talked baseball scores and when they hit our street corner coming home from work or parked the car, we rushed to them for hugs. When my sister needed a tutor, my best friend's mother a teacher recommended someone. When the artist moved in next door, my mother got him to show me his work and teach me techniques. I traded comic books with the mother of one of my younger brother's friends. Now, my neighbors, not the old timers like me and my husband, or the family in 3A whose son has autism and we all look out for, or the neighbors who take your packages in when your are not home, but the new neighbors who avert their eyes in the elevator and who look like they would much rather tolerate moments of awkward and unnecessary silence than simply say, 'Hello neighbor."

You don't need and app, a Facebook group, etc. you just need to talk to your neighbors.

Jul. 30 2014 07:14 AM
Jake from Burlington, VT

Many communities in Vermont have been using a service called Front Porch Forum, which is very similar to Next Door, for years. Mostly, it's an email service, where you send an email to FPF and they send an email or digest to the other people in your neighborhood. It's been rather successful, but it doesn't have a "national" aim - it's going for a small, neighborhood to neighborhood spread.

Sep. 05 2013 09:52 AM
Alex from Manhattan

I think neighborhood online communities are great for civic related events and issues but are only useful when there is an issue. These types of sites aim to replace local newspapers and local radio but dont offer the type of content that makes us want to tune in to hear our favorite talk host or read our favorite writer who has a good perspective on our local area.
I have lived in New York for over 30 years and have lived in buildings both large and small and in my opinion, the most relevant community of all would be one created for the building that I live in. I have more in common with neighbors down the hall than the neighbors around the corner and ironically most of my neighbors down the hall are still complete strangers.

Aug. 26 2013 07:51 AM
lynhill from Park Slope, Brooklyn

In the late 70s, early 80s, our block in Park Slope/downtown Brooklyn had an association that met regularly to discuss specific issues related to crime, sanitation, parking, tree planting, etc. We were both active and activist and managed to get quite a lot done. Eventually, there were fewer pressing issues and the association gradually disbanded.
About a year ago, with the opening of Barclay's Center a couple of blocks away, a young woman on our block started a Google group for the block. People post messages about a number of issues, many not that different from years ago. Initially, they were concerned about the impact of the arena on parking, but there have been postings on crime (there have been a number of mailbox breakins recently), missing pets, etc. Sounds pretty similar to Nextdoor. The group seems to be serving the same purpose as our old block association--except now there are some neighbors that I know but wouldn't recognize if I met them on the street.

Aug. 21 2013 06:24 PM

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