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chris Larry

First let me state how bad and sickening I feel about the mugging, and however they feel as a family they feel they need to handle it their business.


If this whole thing isn't a great example of the upsides of outside.in I don't know what is:

1. Yesterday (while giving a friend a test drive of outside.in) I discovered the Rushkoff mugging. As he lives half a block from me I followed the thread.

2. I am now more aware, and warned my wife.

3. I then checked out Rushkoff's blog, which I had never read and am enjoying and added to my bloglines, not to mention downloading a boing boing podcast he did in the fall. Plan on buying Testament. So maybe my purchasing power will help offset the lost wallet cash.

4. Then get the SBJ post that enriches the conversation about Park Slope, which further connects me to issues/dangers/debates/stats that are literally about/going on within a 3 block radius of my door.

5. I previously enjoyed outside.in as sort of an indie citysearch but now have had an "a-ha" moment about the greater influence.


Yes, *overall* crime was down for 2006, but the amount of *violent* crime was up for 2006.

How can this be? It's simple math. There were many less crimes such as jaywalking, feeding pigeons or stealing packs of chewing gum, but there were more knifings, rapes and shootings. Basically anything illegal is a crime, so it's easy to mangle statistics to mean anything.

This is how Bloomberg and Kelly tell the "truth" while disguising the real-world truth. Stop kidding yourself, New York is sliding back into being less safe.


even though the east village has only about 20% more people in the precinct

Yes, but how many more people work and play in the EV compared to Park Slope? Comparing crime statistics is silly in this case. All I know is that I lived on PPW in 2005 and East Houston now, and I feel much safer walking home in the middle of the night here where neighborhood people say hi on the street than Park Slope where everyone averts their eyes.

Where else in the country can you go from the houses of world-famous authors and movie stars to Hasidic Jews and working-class African-Americans all in the space of about twenty blocks?

Why, let me introduce you to the Upper West Side, where I lived for a few years. It has all the things you describe as being awesome about Park Slope plus more diversity, more of a community feel and less crime; it's the neighborhood I would raise kids and grow old in. Doesn't sound as cool as Brooklyn, but it's a fantastic place for a family.

Steven Johnson

Lia, definitely a good point about crowds making you feel safer -- but that's part of why stats are useful; so you know if you really ARE safer....

Your experience is totally the opposite of mine: Park Slope has been far more social and engaged and civic-minded than any of the neighborhoods I lived or spent time in Manhattan -- including Morningside Heights and the West Village, both of which I loved in different ways. But I have literally 10X the interaction with my neighbors here than I ever did in Manhattan.

As far as the upper west side -- yes, it's a great neighborhood too. My point was as much about NYC generally, not just Brooklyn or Park Slope. But again, I feel like the Slope has a more distinct community feel, and as far as diversity goes, it's not less diverse than the upper west side proper, right? It's just morningside heights that's more diverse, I would imagine. I mean, the gentrification in the 70s and 80s on the UWS has been going on for thirty years now.


I'm not saying the crowds necessarily make me feel safer (Times Square is scary), just that an area with as many night visitors and day workers as the East Village will necessarily have more crime as somewhere as residential as Park Slope. Imagine how much lower violent offenses and drunk driving would be in the EV if you factored out the bridge and tunnel crowd, who don't generally trek to your neighborhood. Apples and oranges.

Park Slope has more of a neighborhood feel because the UWS has those classic block-sized buildings like the Apthorp as well as all the high-rises; rows of brownstones feel homier, sure. But more diverse? No way. The 60s to 90s are gentrified, sure, but the beauty of rent control means lots of people from when the neighborhood was very, very scary (scarier than PS has or will ever be) still live and raise their kids there and will never leave, and more playgrounds, dog runs and public schools means more chances to interact with people outside your class. On 4 out of 5 afternoon walks on PPW the only other people of color besides me on the street would be black nannies (with white babies, of course) and the two delivery guys from the 9th st/7th ave laundry!

steven Johnson

Lia, I'm pretty sure your demographics are off. According to the 2000 census the breakdown for the upper west side was:

66% white
16% hispanic
9% african-american

The slope/heights/downtown brooklyn area was much more representative of the larger city:

45% white
24% hispanic
22% african-american

data here:


and here:



Well first off, obviously situations like this are very disheartenting and it's safe to say we're all sorry such an event took place.

Now, regarding what "truth" had to say about the crime statistics, the math is not that simple. If you look at the FBI crime chart from '96-'05 (http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_32.html) you will find the one thing that *is* definately decilining is violent crime.

It is true that in '06 violent crime did increase in the United States, robbery being one that tops the charts at a 9.7% increase. But that is a far cry from saying NY and all other major cities, or the country, are falling back into their "old ways".

I believe there are many--current, but not everlasting--situations that explain this increase, a few of which could be: a very tumultuous war,hurricane Katrina, the political ladnscape in the country, what's going on in several African countries right now and on and on.

So yes, violent crime is up from years like '04. But as SBJ has pointed out many times, measures taken in recent years by cities like New York have shown to curb the amount of violent crime within the city and that violent crime is rising more so in suburban areas than NYC. Furthermore, the situations I referenced to (most notably the war) are not going to last forever and we should see the rise violent crime follow.

As far as the experence within the neighborhood that Lia and SBJ were talking about, I can't give my own personal experience being from LA but, perhaps the male and female experiences are very different within the two neighborhoods discussed.

fred wilson

i am really sorry to hear about Doug and his wife's ordeal. i can understand why they want to find a new place to live.

in 1994, with a three year old and a one year old in a double stroller, i was walking down the street in brooklyn heights when a bum came over to me and started hassling me. my kids were scared and i got really upset about the whole thing.

it wasn't the reason we left brooklyn, but it was certainly a factor.

we moved to the suburbs where we spent five long years in at least purgatory, maybe hell.

when we finally came to our senses and moved back to NYC, we moved to chelsea and then to greenwich village.

neither of these neighborhoods are any safer than brooklyn heights. i've had similar experiences in both neighborhoods since we moved back.

i never once ran into a bum in the suburbs. so in that sense it was safer.

but we lost five years of our life in a souless place where the most exciting thing is starbucks taking over the corner diner.

you have to pick your poisions in life. i am not sure i would pick getting mugged, but i certainly prefer the slightly less safe but incredibly more interesting we live in NYC than what we had in the suburbs.


Lia has a good point. Steven, you mentioned that the EV has a slightly higher crime rate per capita in 2005. Is this crime rate based on # of residents or daytime/nighttime population? I would venture that if the EV has 20% more residents than the Slope, the number of people that work/play would be considerably higher than 20%. 50%? If so, that changes those crime numbers quite a bit.


Here's the problem with stats. Say what you will about the relative safety of different neighborhoods, you're overlooking that the Rushkoff's have had a 100% chance of being mugged in the last few days.

So, while you may be comfortable playing the odds, they've had their life shaken up by becoming one of the unfortunates on the wrong side of the statistics.

In this case, going from 100% to nearly 0% may be a good choice for them at this point in their life.

Remember, there's only a 16% chance you'll end up with a hole in your head if you're playing Russian roulette. That's not too bad. Still, I'm gonna pass on the whole experience.

- Peter


Let me also say I'm very sorry this happened. As a 3x victim of muggings in Ft Greene during The Crack Years, I know exactly what the experience is like, in all respects. Having said that, I've lived in the Slope for over 15 years now, and while I do feel safer here than a lot of other neighborhoods I've lived in or visited, I am always aware that my time may come again, and other than keeping my eyes open and being aware of my surroundings when I'm on the street, there's not a hell of a lot I can do to change fate. Statistics don't mean a thing. Bad things happen to good people sometimes.

You can get mugged anywhere in New York City. But when it happens outside your home or on your own block, or on your route between the subway and your home where you walk twice a day five days a week, it's a special kind of violation. So, my condolences.

steven Johnson

Philoye, Lia does have a good point about the east village and the influx of visitors. You definitely have to factor that in. But two observations:

1. If you go back and look at my original point, it was that the East Village in the 80s and early 90s was far, far more dangerous than Park Slope now. Even if the number of non-residents doubles the population in the East Village, that's still true, since there was five times as much crime back then.

2. Since the East Village doesn't have as much office space as say, Wall Street or Midtown, it doesn't have that many 9-to-5 outside visitors. It's all people coming for the shops and restaurants, etc. And in that respect, it's really not radically different from the Slope, given that 5th Avenue has become its own little Brooklyn destination for food and shopping, etc. (Remember, Brooklyn has a larger population than Manhattan, so there are a lot of people to draw in.) Walk around 5th Ave on a Friday night and it doesn't feel all that different from Avenue B. And then there's the Park, which draws in an immense amount of people on weekend and during the summer. I live off one of the minor entrances near the bandshell and on weekends there's a steady stream of people walking up our street to the park.

I'm sure there are more non-residents who visit the East Village, and thus I'm sure it's somewhat safer than the Slope. But I don't think the overall difference is that significant.


As someone who lives in Park Slope and spends a lot of time in the East Village/LES, while I understand there is a disparity between the number of "non-resident" people over in Manhattan versus Brooklyn, I'm really not sure how that is germane to the conversation here. There were *five times* the number of crimes reported in an area with a marginally higher population of people. There are doubtlessly more people wandering through those areas that could end up being responsible or the victims of these crimes, but personally I don't feel any safer knowing that the guy who gets mugged outside my apartment might be some "bridge and tunnel" guy and not my neighbor.

This isn't to make any sort of judgments on anyone, epseically the Rushkoffs', experience or emotions, but obviously a lot of this is subjective and anecdotal; my experience hews much closer to Steven's than it does to Lia's, and I wonder if this isn't a function of what Steven was talking about w/r/t how quickly the ethnic and economic make-up shifts in short spurts. Walking up and down a different set of streets every day/evening might result in very different counts of averted eyes, friendly waves and non-white non-nannies.


I think Steven's analysis is dead-on. I sympathize with Rushkoff too, but I'm concerned that his personal experience is blog-metastasizing into the message that Park Slope is suddenly Fort Apache. (At least I think I'm concerned. It might make parking easier.) So 2 things to add:

1. I've lived within a three-block radius of where Rushkoff now lives for ten years, and in Park Slope for almost 15 years. Never mugged, robbed or otherwise the victim of a crime. And I take out my garbage and everything. Just one person's anecdotal experience, but then so is Rushkoff's.

2. From reading Mr. and Ms. R's various blog posts, it seems pretty clear that their inclination to leave Brooklyn is about a lot more than this incident. They cite a number of issues with urban, or at least New York City, life. One thing that seems to come up is schools: she writes about the difficulty of "getting in" to schools, and he (in a thread on Brooklynian.com) says "all [his] friends in the neighborhood send or will be sending their kids to private schools." For what it's worth, the elementary school that (I gather from his description) he's zoned for is PS 39, where I send my oldest son--an excellent school with a brand-new principal who has energized the place and is fabulous about working with and listening to parents. My son is happy, progressing, meeting kids from all backgrounds, and learning Chinese from the grandmother of a student who teaches weekly Chinese lessons to the kindergartens.

If I knew Rushkoff, and if he weren't planning on leaving, I'd ask him to be skeptical about the 321-or-bust chatter one picks up on the playgrounds--but as it is, I'll just have to recommend the same to anyone who's been following his story instead.

chris Larry

Thanks for the post jponiewozik, I am in education but I was not aware of PS 39. I did some research and it looks great. I also have heard great things about the public middle school in the area and also the MS 447 on dean street. I actually think this area of Brooklyn is great for public schools and a reason for parents, especially ones who cant afford or choose not to do private, to stay.

My landlords (who lives in the rest of the building) have sent there kid, by choice, to public school all the way through this 8th grade year and I swear she might be president one day. I worked with her for a a graduate project I had and she blew me away how engaged in learning she is.


"the houses of world-famous authors"

such as?

Steven Johnson

for world-famous authors, I was thinking of Jonathan Safran-Foer or Paul Auster... Not Stephen King world-famous, but translated into dozens of languages, bestsellers, multiple movie adaptations, etc.


Smart conversation here - especially compared with some of the other insanity in the blogosphere about all this.

Really, for me it was a matter of not being able to find a place to live for under a million bucks - not here, Windsor, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene...and then getting mugged on top of that. It's the connection I drew between these two things that upset people. But it's a very personal situation, which is why I shared it on a blog, not in some article. I thought what I was going through might be useful to others; the emails I've received have indicated it was.

This is a conversation we should be able to have - but it's led to people making fun of my daughter's name. It seems I touched a nerve I didn't mean to. So maybe there's something going on beneath the surface that just needs to be looked at.

I don't know whether crime is going up or down, but I do know I feel safer on the upper west side, the East Village, and the West Village - I've lived in all of them. And that's because the streets are more filled with people, later at night. We've got plenty of stoops here in the Slope, but people don't use them. The streets are pretty dark and empty at night.

If I had 1.5 million for a Park Slope 2 1/2 bedroom apartment, I think I'd rather spend it on something in Manhattan. Not just for the safety, but for what feels like a more diverse, less "zoned" neighborhood. Is it less zoned? Y'all can be the judges.

And then there's this other weirdness where so many people send their kids to private school. Nothing wrong with private school, but I still have this idea of living in the same neighborhood with the families whose kids are going to school my kids are going to. Even if we could get a place in ps 39 or, better yet, 107 district, what happens in 6th grade?

And this goes on all over the city? Kids getting in subways to go to junior high? Do we want to fix this, or is it better like this for some reason I don't understand, yet?

I'm not saying Park Slope is a terrible crime zone. I'm just saying that in the quest to find a couple of million dollars to live amongst my semi-famous writing peers, I forgot that it was still the city. It began to feel like I might be sacrificing too much in order to be in this particular part of it.

steven Johnson

Doug, I'm sorry you seem to regret posting about this experience and decision. I haven't followed the entire blogosphere discussion, but in general I think the tone and substance of the response has been pretty wonderful. Yes, people are passionate about it -- this is their community we're talking about -- and you can't expect a support group 100% online, but there's been so much intelligence and engagement over the past few days, here and on your blog and elsewhere...

As far as safety goes, I definitely agree that Manhattan feels safer at night. I never feel actively unsafe here, but I definitely scan the block if I'm walking home after say 8 or 9, in a way that I wouldn't do in the West Village. (Though I felt much less safe in Morningside Heights in 1990, for good reason given the crime then.) But Park Slope feels totally safe during the day of course.

On the other hand, you are far more likely to be harrassed by an insane person in Manhattan. There just aren't many crazies on the street here for some reason. I've never been mugged (knock on wood) but I've probably had some kind of uncomfortable encounter in Manhattan with someone ranting at me a dozen times or more, exactly the kind of thing you'd hate to have your kids experience.

And then there's terrorism. Talk about your subjective fears! It definitely factored into my desire to leave Manhattan -- it just feels that much safer here in Brooklyn in terms of potential attack targets. When the threat levels would go up, I definitely started to sweat in the West Village; now they don't bother me at all.

Public/private school is a different issue -- I assume you mean this as a general Brooklyn/Manhattan problem, not something specific to Park Slope.

I don't know what you mean by Park Slope feeling zoned -- I feel like all the problems about gentrification you're worried about have happened in even more extreme form in Manhattan.


Also, I'm not sure I agree with taking the question of wealth distribution off the table. This conversation starts with:

"Let's start with the fact that the overall wealth distribution problem in the U.S. is not a problem neighborhoods can solve. There are going to be rich people, for better or for worse, and while I think we both agree that the high-low wage ratios in this country are seriously out of whack, that's a whole other question."

And I don't think it is a whole other question, to be handled, say, by some invisible government people at a policy level. I think it's something that gets solved on the ground, by people in real neighborhoods engaging with one another in the most direct and meaningful ways possible.

By participating in the unfair escalation of pricing, aren't we contributing to the more perverse effects of gentrification? Isn't there a kind of hysteria among the wealthy, that only certain sections of certain neighborhoods are okay to live in? And doesn't that hysteria pervert markets and then escalate the "border wars" between ousted renters, high school students from outlying areas (who are assigned to a school within the wealth zone), and newcomer wealthy residents?


"I still have this idea of living in the same neighborhood with the families whose kids are going to school my kids are going to. "Even if we could get a place in ps 39 or, better yet, 107 district, what happens in 6th grade?

"And this goes on all over the city? Kids getting in subways to go to junior high? ..."

It goes on all over the country, as far as I know, if not involving subways. I grew up in a smallish town and went to public school. I went to elementary school with kids who lived in walking distance. My middle school comprised seven or eight different elementary districts. My high school had kids from across our county.

That's not just widespread, it corresponds with a child's development. When you grow, your world and your community expands outward in concentric circles: myself > my family > my block > my neighborhood > my city > my country > my world. By the time your daughter is in middle school, her idea of community will properly be expanding. (All that said, MS 51 on 5th Ave is really good. But I don't want to turn this into insideschools.org here.)

But as for connection to the neighborhood, I'd love to know what places do it better, with as much physical accessibility and walkability, without a much more homogeneous population. (I think I live farther down the Slope than you, and much farther down than the toffs like Steven, so I may experience the neighborhood as a more heterogenous place.) My kindergarten son has a far wider range of social contacts, kids and adults, than I did at his age and possibly than I do now. We walk to school in the morning, and he sees neighbors, kids and shopkeepers he knows constantly. Not that the Slope is some idyll, but that aspect at least is almost quaintly, archaically small-townish. (And I assume that goes for plenty other Brooklyn neighborhoods.)

Is New York too expensive? You've certainly got the stats on your side there. But even at that there's a possibility for class intermingling in large cities that exists in few other places. In most cities, someone who owns a $2.5M house is not going to live on the same block with a renter, period, or a single in a studio apartment, or someone cramming two kids into a two-bedroom co-op.

chris Larry

This has certainly caused quite a commotion, I am losing many work hours to following all the blogs and strands...

On these comments things are bit more meta so thought I would share this link to a fun demographics site:


barbara rushkoff

first of all, steven, thanks for your words. and thanks to people posting here and discussing this in a civilized manner!

as doug said, this was really the last straw - we had been talking for well over a year about moving out of the city. i am sorry if i offended any brooklynites out there. i truly do love it here; i've made wonderful friends here and so has our daughter. we will be sad to leave, but it just feels to be the right thing for us, at this time. i told doug that if this happened to us and we didn't have a kid, i might take it better, and be even more determined to stay in the the place that i love. but having a kid has changed so much for me. i know there is crime everywhere, but we feel ready for a change.

at any rate, thanks for this forum. and see you around, we're not going anywhere just yet.




(Of course, it's an anonymous poster who posts a link to the "let's attack the Rushkoffs thread." I'd actually appreciate if it was removed. I've even gotten email from cops saying that rabble doesn't know what they're talking about.

If anyone cares, the psychological impact of this event was quite severe. I first remembered the weapon as a knife - and only recalled that it was a gun after the detectives took me through the whole crime, moment by moment. I essentially promised the mugger I wouldn't call the cops if he didn't hurt me. I made a deal. Yes, it was under duress, but I didn't see it that way at first.)

Now as to the topic of this forum, I think we can look at whether or not a community can - from the bottom up - change or influence the segregation and wealth disparity.

Doesn't sending one's kids to private school instead of working to make the local public school better lead, in part, to the class division we're claiming is unfixable from the bottom? If private school costs 25,000 a year, what if a parent took the amount of time that takes to earn 25g, and spent it instead working to make the public school better? What if they started when the kid was three - the age that most wealthy people seem to be applying to the private schools?

I mean, the conversations I hear on the playground are about how to get into private programs. What if the hubbub on the playground was how to make PS 39 or 51 (or whatever) the place we all want our kids to go?

And I fear the reason that doesn't happen - or doesn't happen enough - is because this is still a very fractious, new, and changing neighborhood. Plus, if it costs a million bucks to live here (now) who has time to do anything but be a stockbroker? (NOTHING against stockbrokers - it's just not the right job for everybody.)

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I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

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    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
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