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?