Archive | August, 2011

Interview #3

7 Aug

Interview #3

I conducted my third interview in the Flatiron District one weekend when I was strolling through the area. Lately, I have been hearing more and more horror stories of what New York City was like in the 60s and 70s, I regards to crime in particular. I was curious to talk to someone who might have an inside opinion to the evolution of crime I the city, in particular in the Flatiron District. My results of my efforts to talk to a policeman and get some information were not as fruitful as I had hoped, but here’s what I learned.

I approached an officer who was monitoring the area around the North side of the Flatiron building and the south end of Madison Square Park. He wouldn’t let me use his real name in this report, so let’s just call him Officer Smith. I asked Officer Smith how long he had been a cop and he said for about 10 years. I asked him how long he had been working in the area, and he said about 2 years. I tried to ask him about the evolution of crime in the area, and he said he didn’t know much about it, but that everything got a lot better when Mayor Bloomberg came along. This was about as much I got out of him!


Interview #2

7 Aug

Interview #2

I conducted my second interview when I went to the Flatiron District one day to go shopping. I ventured into Ann Taylor Loft on 5th Ave, between 20th and 21st streets, right in the heart of the area. It wasn’t too busy in the store, so I decided to approach a girl who worked there and ask her a few questions about working in the area.

The girl I talked to was named Nicole and she doesn’t live in the Flatiron District, she lives in Greenwich Village, but she has worked Ann Taylor Loft for the past two years. I asked her about her observations about the stores and in the area and she had some interesting opinions. She told me that the stores in the area are mostly chains and that it is hard to find good service at many of them. She said at H&M for example, they don’t seem to hire anyone over the age of thirty. She said one good thing about Ann Taylor Loft is that they provide good customer service.

When I think about this in comparison to the fact that the area used to be home to the Ladies Mile, its very interesting to consider how American shopping has changed. Many of the stores on the Ladies Mile were boutiques that no doubt prided themselves on customer service. Today, it’s hard tofind such a thing on 5th avenue in popular stores like H&M.

I also asked Nicole if she ever came to the area to go out with her friends. She said she has come a few times, but that many of the bars and restaurants are very expensive. She mentioned that she had been to a club called Duvet and a bar called Taj II.

After talking to Nicole, I felt I had a better understanding about stores in the area. It was definitely interesting to talk to a young person who spends a great deal of time I the Flatiron District.

Key Findings

7 Aug

 “Key Findings”

From my research about the Flatiron District, my interactions with the people in the area, and my own observations, I have made several conclusions about the neighborhood. The district has evolved over time, and is in a completely different place now than it was when it began to gain attention during the Gilded Age. It is my belief that the type of people who populate it everyday, has changed the most in the past 150 years. I learned this through researching the area, but after my interactions with a family who lives in the area, a police officer, and a person who works in the area, it became clear that this is the most dramatic change the neighborhood has seen.

During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the neighborhood was home to “The Ladies Mile” and was full of wealthy women who had the time and money to spend on expensive clothes and other shopping. This phase, however, would not last forever. During the Great Depression and continuing on into the 1950s, the area was largely deserted and crime was prevalent. The area started regaining life in the 1960s when artists started to move into the area because of the low rent prices, but crime still greatly affected the quality of life in the district. From there, the Flatiron District evolved into where it is today, a trendy area full of restaurants and happening bars and clubs. When you walk the streets surrounding the Flatiron building today, you will notice that the area is populated primarily by families and young couples, though there are also many tourists who visit the area to see the Flatiron building and explore Madison Square Park.

All of these different phases of the Flatiron Districts history have involved it being inhabited by different kinds of people. From wealthy women, to artists, to a restaurant district full of hip young people, the Flatiron District has a truly diverse history.

Through this project, I also learned a lot about the study of people and what my responsibilities are as an ethnographer to the people and to the area. Even though an area is obviously inanimate, you cannot forget the thoughts and feelings of people who live there. They have a history as well as the buildings and landscape of the place, and personally, I’ve found this is much more telling about the history of an area. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the ethnographer to treat the people who live in the area that they’re studying with respect.

There is a balance that comes with this sensitivity though. As an ethnographer, you also have a responsibility to not let your emotions for the people in the area you are studying get in the way of documenting the facts. It is a study, and you have to call things as you see them. If you fail to do so, you are not doing your part as an ethnographer.

In some ways ethnography is objective, and in some ways it is subjective. The history, such as the hard facts about population, is objective. When you consider the type of people who live in the area and categorize them, you are being subjective. Even though it is subjective, it is essential to an ethnographic study and being able to make generalizations about an area. This is how knowledge is created. The authors and writers whose books and articles I have read about the area made their own conclusions about the area and the people. For example, they observed in the 1960s that artists were moving into the area. Then, they wrote about it and it became fact. Since ethnographers have the power to create this knowledge and influence future scholars, it is their responsibility to keep the facts straight.

Overall, my study of the Flatiron District has led me to look critically at an area and see how it has evolved over time. I have truly fallen in love with the architecture and atmosphere of the Flatiron District and believe I have presented my findings about it accurately.

Interview #1

5 Aug

July 23– Interview #1

On the afternoon of July 23rd, I ventured to the Flatiron District to begin my first official set of notes and observations on the area. Even though I had walked around the area before, I noticed certain things when I observed more closely than when I had visited before.

I took some time and walked around Madison Square Park. This was a great way to observe the locals. There appeared to be some tourists there, but the beauty of the park is that it has a neighborhood feel that is hard to find elsewhere in the city.

A view of Madison Square Park

I decided to approach a young family who was in the park with their kids. The mother was sitting on a bench with their baby in a stroller, while the father was walking around and exploring with their three-year-old son. The mother, Jen, told me that she and her husband actually lived in Gramercy, but that they sometimes venture over to the Flatiron District with their kids on the weekends.

The section of Madison Square Park where I conducted my first interview

When I asked her about her opinion on the area and how its changed over the past few years, she said she had only lived in the area for about 8 years, but that it has become very popular with young people at night and that there are lots of good restaurants in the area. She told me she has some friends who live here and often complain about the noise at night. I asked her how she thought the Flatiron compared to Gramercy, and she said that she finds Gramercy to be slightly calmer, but that they also have the privilege of living higher up in a building away from street level.

Finally, I asked Jen if she had a favorite restaurant in the area. She said she really enjoyed going to Boqueria on 19th street. She said it was a little expensive, but that the food is awesome and the atmosphere is really fun. She said it has a Spanish vibe!

The Restaurant "Boqueria" on 19th St.

After I finished my interview with Jen, I walked around the park some more and continued to notice the many young families milling around. I also noticed that by the Shake Shack, there seemed to be lots of groups of friends hanging out and having a good time. Also, on the street I noticed couple after couple holding hands and shopping. All and all, Madison Square Park and the Flatiron District in general have a neighborhood feel that I find very inviting.

An "uptown" view of the Flatiron District

My Personal Tour Guide for the Flatiron District

4 Aug

Here’s the link to my tour guide for the Flatiron District!