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Thread: College towns vs college neighborhoods of cities

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    College towns vs college neighborhoods of cities

    The other thread on college towns got me thinking about this. I live in what is ostensibly a college neighborhood within New York City. Riverdale, Bronx is home to Manhattan College, a small, Catholic college noted for its engineering program. Riverdale is a neighborhood of about 50,000 people situated in a 3 square mile corner of the Northwest Bronx, bordering Yonkers. It's a mix of college students, young professionals who move to the neighborhood for its decent schools, and the elderly - I think there may be more elderly in Riverdale than in any other NYC neighborhood. The neighborhood also has a lot of synagogues and many devout Orthodox Jews, and this definitely influences the feel of the neighborhood as it's considered one of the quietest 'hoods in NYC.

    There's very little of a college town vibe in Riverdale. There is not a single bookstore in the neighborhood, the only coffee shop is a Starbucks, and very few students on bicycles. The visual and social hallmarks of a college community just are not there. There are a couple of pubs, but none of them are anything that special.

    Jane Jacobs once stated that a city neighborhood should never be mistaken for a stand alone community, that its presence within the larger metropolis changes the activities conducted within the neighborhood in fundamental ways. I have a theory that this is what is at work here. Specifically, the presence of the subway system allows the college kids to just get on the subway to Manhattan, and they patronize the coffee shops and bookstores and ethnic restaurants down there instead of those in the neighborhood in which they live. Great college towns tend to have faculty living IN the town itself, while I think that the faculty at this college must live in either Manhattan or out in the suburbs, perhaps because of housing costs. I never see any professor types out and around the neighborhood.

    My point is that despite the presence of a lot of college kids living in and going to school here, it somehow doesn't translate into a college community vibe. I was up in New Haven a few weekends ago and downtown New Haven is very much a creature of Yale - the complete opposite of the situation in my neighborhood. Am I making sense here? What do other people make of this?

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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I think you're making a lot of sense. I can think of similar situations in Austin and Houston. In Austin, there are a lot of college kids who live in neighborhoods like West Campus and Hyde Park (Austin neighborhood), but while a few professor types live there, a majority of them live northwest Austin (in the hills). Of course, there's overlap and it's not quite the same situation you observed in Riverdale. It's kind of in the middle between a Riverdale and, say, a Hyde Park (Chicago).

    In Houston, however, the area around the University of Houston. No students except for a few concentrations of apartment complexes. The neighborhood gets dodgy within a relatively short distance of campus. Professor types are more likely to live either in the Clear Lake area or in western Houston neighborhoods/suburbs. Students who don't commute from home usually live in similar places and frequent trendy areas like Montrose/Kirby, Uptown, and parts of downtown.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    UC Berkeley is right in the middle of downtown Berkeley in the middle of the East Bay Area; there is relatively easy access to San Francisco, which I think would have a similar draw as Manhattan, but college town institutions are very strong there.

    I stayed near one of Fudan University's campuses in Shanghai and, while clubs were located in the downtown districts, the ONLY cd store I found was right near the college. This also happened to be one of the only signs I saw of Jiangxi Town being a college area. The same thing happened to stand out for me in Cambridge and the Boston area.

    Besides the nearness to one of the great centers of world culture, Manhattan College is by your definition small, while other, larger universities could have more impact.

    What about the Ivy League college in Harlem? I'm blanking on the name. Does that school create a college atmosphere?

  4. #4
    Here in Boston, we have lots of student neighborhoods. Some, no professor would ever live in. Others, such as Cambridge, are knee deep in them. And overall, the professors tend to be very highly integrated into the life of the metro area. Of course this is a special case.

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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    The other thread on college towns got me thinking about this. I live in what is ostensibly a college neighborhood within New York City. Riverdale, Bronx is home to Manhattan College, a small, Catholic college noted for its engineering program. Riverdale is a neighborhood of about 50,000 people situated in a 3 square mile corner of the Northwest Bronx, bordering Yonkers. It's a mix of college students, young professionals who move to the neighborhood for its decent schools, and the elderly - I think there may be more elderly in Riverdale than in any other NYC neighborhood. The neighborhood also has a lot of synagogues and many devout Orthodox Jews, and this definitely influences the feel of the neighborhood as it's considered one of the quietest 'hoods in NYC.

    There's very little of a college town vibe in Riverdale. There is not a single bookstore in the neighborhood, the only coffee shop is a Starbucks, and very few students on bicycles. The visual and social hallmarks of a college community just are not there. There are a couple of pubs, but none of them are anything that special.

    Jane Jacobs once stated that a city neighborhood should never be mistaken for a stand alone community, that its presence within the larger metropolis changes the activities conducted within the neighborhood in fundamental ways. I have a theory that this is what is at work here. Specifically, the presence of the subway system allows the college kids to just get on the subway to Manhattan, and they patronize the coffee shops and bookstores and ethnic restaurants down there instead of those in the neighborhood in which they live. Great college towns tend to have faculty living IN the town itself, while I think that the faculty at this college must live in either Manhattan or out in the suburbs, perhaps because of housing costs. I never see any professor types out and around the neighborhood.

    My point is that despite the presence of a lot of college kids living in and going to school here, it somehow doesn't translate into a college community vibe. I was up in New Haven a few weekends ago and downtown New Haven is very much a creature of Yale - the complete opposite of the situation in my neighborhood. Am I making sense here? What do other people make of this?
    Yeah I have seen that happen in LA. CSU Northridge is like that and I think more along the lines because it's a commuter school. CSU LA and Cal Poly Pomona are like that too. Pomona has a little bit of a college feel in their downtown, but it's very little. I might even say there is night life in Pomona because it's close to downtown LA and because Pomona is a larger city. I haven't been to Westwood where UCLA is, but I think Westwood is pretty bland but then again it's near downtown LA. And UCSC is pretty much the same. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong. The schools themselves are pretty active and alone are their own communities.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    I haven't been to Westwood where UCLA is, but I think Westwood is pretty bland but then again it's near downtown LA. And UCSC is pretty much the same. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong. The schools themselves are pretty active and alone are their own communities.
    Maybe I'm very biased , but I think Santa Cruz is far from bland; we have a lack of nightlife because of a very strict 2am noise ordinance but if students aren't partying in dorms or houses they're downtown. For everything but clubs the city is college community to the max; I just got back from downtown and was at three independent bookstores, and there's also a Barnes and Noble, to use bookstores as some kind of gauge which I think you can. I don't know what UCSC is doing in this topic, though; the nearest metro magnet is San Jose and its got a very weak pull. A commute to San Francisco is an hour and a half driving, two hours ish public trans. The South Bay just doesn't have a cool spot where kids can commute to easily; SC in my opinion is its most happening point.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I think smaller colleges and universities in large metropolitan areas don't have the critical mass to create a college neighborhood. If the school isn't dominated by commuter students, or doesn't require undergrads to live on campus, there may be a student ghetto associated with the school. A "college drag", though, seems unlikely, although the presence of the school may have some influence on a nearby commercial district; for example, more coffee houses than what one might expect in a neighborhood without a nearby college.

    The Buffalo area is dotted with many small colleges. Only one has a small student ghetto - Canisus College, in the blocks immediately north of the school. Otherwise, students tend to piggyback onto other neighborhood commercial districts. Canisius students tend to congregate in Allentown, a few subway stops away from campus. They also join Medaille, D'Youville and Buffalo State students in Elmwood Village. Daemen College is in the middle of the well-off Snyder neighborhood, which has absolutely no college vibe despite a fairly large number of students living on campus. Daemen students head to nearby Williamsville; again an area that doesn't seem collegiate, but which offers coffee houses, bars, and other diversions. They'll also go to nearby University Heights, the student ghetto by the UB South Campus.

    When I was in graduate school at UB, Cleveland State was seen as something of a "sister school", with students and faculty often visiting their peers at the other school. One observation Cleveland State students made: UB SA&P professors tend to live in the City of Buffalo itself, while Cleveland State professors reside in the 'burbs. The pattern I've seen at other schools is that professors tend to live in established, older middle-class to upper-middle class neighborhoods near campus. You don't see too many professors in newer suburban communities, except maybe for engineering.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    Maybe I'm very biased , but I think Santa Cruz is far from bland; we have a lack of nightlife because of a very strict 2am noise ordinance but if students aren't partying in dorms or houses they're downtown. For everything but clubs the city is college community to the max; I just got back from downtown and was at three independent bookstores, and there's also a Barnes and Noble, to use bookstores as some kind of gauge which I think you can. I don't know what UCSC is doing in this topic, though; the nearest metro magnet is San Jose and its got a very weak pull. A commute to San Francisco is an hour and a half driving, two hours ish public trans. The South Bay just doesn't have a cool spot where kids can commute to easily; SC in my opinion is its most happening point.
    Sorry I was mentiniong USC. It's easy to get the names mis-used.

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    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Oh. Then sorry for the elongated hometown defense. Isn't USC surrounded by terrible neighborhoods?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    Oh. Then sorry for the elongated hometown defense. Isn't USC surrounded by terrible neighborhoods?
    I would call them terrible, but they aren't great either. It's a great campus, just it is located in an every changing demographic area

    i.e.
    middle class-->black middle class--->hispanic/latino--->Asian (primarily korean), hispanic, black working neighborhood. It is no westwood, but i mean i guess i don't see the issue with the neighborhood. It could be worse.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    I would call them terrible, but they aren't great either. It's a great campus, just it is located in an every changing demographic area

    i.e.
    middle class-->black middle class--->hispanic/latino--->Asian (primarily korean), hispanic, black working neighborhood. It is no westwood, but i mean i guess i don't see the issue with the neighborhood. It could be worse.
    Yeah I have heard of shootings near there. But that also happened with CSU Northridge. Rape, shooting, and theft. The usually sketch stuff. There are worse parts of LA though.

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