nyc neighborhoods

A Neighborhood Bookshelf

A few weeks ago, this appeared outside Cafe Buunni, a great coffee shop in Washington Heights (my neighborhood).

Nomat Book Club: A bookcase where people can take and leave books, in Washington Heights

The idea is incredibly simple, but brilliant: It’s a bookcase for the whole neighborhood.В People can take or leave books as they please.

I love everything about that bookcase.

It fosters a sense of community—I like the idea of neighbors sharing books. It’s a money-saver—I’m all about supporting authors, but it’s a treat to get books for free!В But perhapsВ the thing I love most about the bookcase is that it gives me a place to pass along books I no longer want or can fit in my apartment.

I think it’s fair to say that most New Yorkers are short on space—apartments in the city are generally small, even in pre-war buildings in more affordable neighborhoods, like my own. As a result, we’re always purging in an effort to maximize our spaces.

I’m a strong believer inВ the sharing economy, and really appreciate having places to donate or drop off items so they’re not going to waste. My building, for example, has a clothing and textile bin that benefits a local charity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve dropped in clothing or shoes. And that’s why I welcome that communal bookcase to my ‘hood. It’s a great addition, and it’s amazing more neighborhoods don’t have something similar.

Is there anything in your building or area that encourages sharing among neighbors? I’m curious and would love to know.

1940s New York

I’m a big fan of all things NYC, both new and old. And since I’m also a spreadsheet-enamored, data-appreciative geek,В I’m really loving Welcome to 1940s New York, a new, interactive map that CUNY’s Center for Urban ResearchВ launched this week.

AsВ Gothamist describes it, the map is:

a slick mash-up of 1940s Census data, web maps and a rare 1943 book calledВ NYC Market AnalysisВ found byВ then-graduate student Steven Romalewski in 1997В and painstakingly scanned and placed onto a map of the city…Using newspaper and census data (including info from the Times, the Daily News, The Daily Miror, and the New York Journal American) the site gives you a peek into the “City of a Hundred Cities,” with each neighborhood getting a clickable description with photographs, block-by-block rental breakdowns and population statistics.

Of course, I went straight to my ‘hood, Washington Heights. The pop-up window showed me a few photos of different blocks from 1943. (The corner of Cabrini Boulevard and 181st Street doesn’t look too different!) It also has a color-coded key to apartment prices from that year. AndВ since all of us New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate, that’s pretty awesome.

Rent in my apartment building ranged from $75 to 99 a month. And since I live in a studio, I can safely assume that my rent would have been $75. It’s scary how much more I pay for the same space less than 100 years later!

P.S. More old-school photos of NYC.

(Image via Gothamist )