My journey and exploration of Midwood, where I moved about two years ago, was mostly virtual. I was trying to gather some data using the Internet, as the most readily available source, and combine it with my personal observations of the neighborhood. I have to admit that both sources are not quite complete and reliable. The former contains the information that can be outdated, and some information is not provided by the professionals at all. The latter source is limited by the duration of my residency in this neighborhood, Midwood, and the fact that I don’t spend much time directly in the neighborhood: when I am employed, I spend most of the day time at the place of my employment, and in college; when unemployed, I send out my resume, and find consolation with my studies. Considering the visible disarray of Midwood, I cannot say it is a perfect neighborhood, but it would be quite an unfair exaggeration to call it a poor one. The garbage is collected, most roads are paved, enough place for pedestrians, plenty of shopping places, medical offices, cafes and restaurants. As per employment status of Midwood residents, I would assume that it is the same average across the city – about 8-9% of population is unemployed, the rest are working lower middle class. The population of Midwood, as per 2010 census, is 86,408. There are 1,984 registered businesses, providing 17,424 employment positions. There were no further data if those positions were filled with the locals. As I could find out, the most massive construction activity occurred in Midwood around 1920, and then in 60’s and 80’s. Most of the buildings look well attended, with varying degree of attractiveness, and very few abandoned old houses can be found. Hopefully, they are awaiting new owners who will sparkle a new life into these lots.
If I were a community nurse, and were assessing the neighborhood for potential hazards and disadvantages for the people living there, especially children, I would address directly the structures responsible for different aspects of city life: police precinct to find out about the crime rate; fire department to learn if most of the buildings are in compliance with fire safety regulations; medical institutions to find if there is a high level of infectious diseases, or disease caused by polluted environment, or many traffic accidents because of non-functioning street lights or poorly planned traffic flow, and so on. It would be good to make connections at some local Real Estate office to find out the price range and availability of apartments, especially affordable housing, how do real estate agents assess the condition of buildings, etc. I need to admit that hasty conclusions based on incomplete data, or worse, on superficial brief observations or stereotypes, can be misleading, and take the investigators in the wrong direction. Even if someone is acting out of the most noble and humane desire to help, the facts should be precise and true. This way the evidence can serve as a solid base for action, especially if the action to be taken by city or other officials could be costly and resource-consuming.
Out of the possible problems of the neighborhood listed – like gangs or teenage pregnancies, I personally, haven’t seen a single pregnant teenager or a gang member walking with the gun or knife down the street. Midwood is a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, with mostly Orthodox Jews, and recently some Sephardic new settlers, and the crime rate is very low here, as in other neighborhoods with Jewish population, like Boro Park or Williamsburg. Jewish mindset and life philosophy are traditionally very family orientated, children, especially girls, are raised very strictly, separate schools for boys and girls, no co-eds, education – both religious and secular – is highly valued. I am not idealizing, nor stereotyping, just based on my personal experiences: whenever late I return home from college, or after attending some event, I am never afraid to walk through my neighborhood, have very friendly neighbors (of different races and nationalities) in the apartment building, and rather than occasional noise or cooking odors, I experience no hazards. The issue that I would decidedly like to address concerning the development of the infrastructure of this neighborhood – is the lack of recreational places and playgrounds for children. Yes, there are playgrounds at the school properties – but they are mostly closed after school hours, or just inaccessible for public. There is a good court on Brooklyn college campus, but, again, it’s just for students, not for neighborhood children. There is Bally Sport Club and Lucille Roberts Club for Women on Kings Highway, but those facilities are for adults, and require membership, both factors excluding children participation in activities. To reach Prospect Park which is technically outside the official borders of Midwood, one has to drive at least 20-30 minutes depending on starting point, and public transportation would take at least twice this time. One cannot overestimate the importance of physical activity for children, especially nowadays, when child obesity and diabetes II have reached the scale of national epidemic. When I pass along the streets on weekends or in the evenings, and I see those children and adolescents playing or simply aimlessly wandering in front of the buildings, inhaling street dust and automobile exhaust, I feel very upset with these scenes. What is proudly called “Kolbert Park” and “Rachel Cohen Playground” are no more than just a few fenced trees and some game structures at the intersection of the animated roads permeated by automobile exhaust. They are safe at least, but not adequate for the recreation of the children or a quiet rest of senior adults. I strongly believe that a few more playgrounds with swings, ladders, and alike, would be no less valuable than a new café or a local council office.