For a select group of Boston residents, there’s nothing more important than their neighborhood and its identity. And there are many places, where you are absolutely, positively in a specific neighborhood — Broadway in South Boston, Blue Hill Ave in Mattapan Square, Adams Park in Roslindale.
But head out from those places and you run into lots of a grey areas — probably in one neighborhood, but possibly in another. And the definitions may shift depending on whom you talk to — the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Transportation Department, realtors, long-time residents, or newcomers.
Some places even get to shift neighborhoods. One particular area moved from Roslindale to West Roxbury after the West Roxbury post office got the capacity to serve them. And the border between the South End and Roxbury seems to move depending on the day.
To try and address this issue from another angle, Bostonography started crowdsourcing our neighborhoods’ borders. It’s a fascinating attempt to address the issue by letting users delineate their own concept of each neighborhood. They need more input as some of the neighborhoods, particularly in the southern end of the city, only have 40 or so entries, but the concept is great.
From what they have already collected, they can create maps of the consensus for each neighborhood and then shade out from there for lesser levels of consensus.
From my point of view, the differing judgements about the grey areas are the most fascinating. There are certain areas, like the stretch of Forest Hills going up Hyde Park Avenue, the tip of the neighborhood between West Roxbury Parkway and Belgrade Avenue, and Washington Street up past the West Roxbury Parkway, where at least 25 percent of the mappers for two or more neighborhoods included these areas.
I’m hopeful that Bostonography gets more entries and stronger data. The self-perception and the outside perception of these neighborhoods is a rich topic (and the comments thread provides a view into the depth of passion for the issue).
So the simple question “Where are you from?” carries with it a host of issues in Boston. Check out Bostonography and see how your answer compares with others.
Seen in Boston Magazine.