Monday, December 6, 2010

City Livin': Beyond the Stigma

In towns such as Newton and Sharon, crime rate statistics are a lot lower than most inner-city Boston communities, such as Hyde Park and Dorchester. These high crime rates tend to scare a good deal of people who are not familiar with these neighborhoods. Even if one is not up to date on recent felonies, they most often have a general assumption about what these towns are like and why they would not venture in to eat lunch there, much less move in.

When a Quincy resident was asked why he did not accept a date in Roxbury, he replied: “Someone had recently got stabbed on a bus so as a little white boy like myself, I didn’t want to go there”. Furthermore, his roommate had recently encouraged his fear by telling him that Roxbury is the ghetto and West Roxbury is more high-end.

These beliefs are common among many. However, they are often misguided and over exaggerated. While these towns outside the city regard themselves as some of the safest places to live, they are no match for the amusement and variety that the hub has to offer. There are trade-offs to living in the city, and let me tell you, they are worth it.

First of all, let me take a moment to debunk our violence. While we do struggle with more poverty and therefore, more crime, it is not like you are walking in a battle-zone. Yes, we can’t leave our doors unlocked or our bikes on the porch. And no, I don’t think it would be a good idea to take a jog through Dudley Square at night. But if you are willing to be a conscientious resident, the life you will have in any Boston neighborhood will bring you more excitement and joy than any safe, suburban-like community. Unless, of course, you really do enjoy the comfort of yourself and your car and in that case, maybe Wellesley is right for you. And for all you apprehensive folks that don’t even feel comfortable visiting, I’ll tell you right now, you are safe to come to Roxbury for a film-festival or perhaps a taste of ethnic food that you’ll be lucky to find in Arlington. Your chances of getting caught in a cross-fire as you fear are slim to none.

Let me highlight some of our amazing characteristics and even if I don't change your mind about abandoning your humdrum town, hopefully you will at least come to see that our neighborhoods are not crime districts and ghettos as is often believed, but beautiful and enjoyable places to live or at the least check out.

First off, our neighborhood parks are the liveliest spots to bring your kids. Let me tell you, if you show up at some playgrounds in Jamaica Plain at dinner time, it feels like the whole neighborhood is there, especially in the summer. You have kids running around in the sprinklers, teens playing basketball and you can always find a parent to talk to on one of the benches. This common crowd can be found all over the city. In Sharon, you’ll be lucky if one of the soccer moms even smiles at you and your child has a fat chance of finding someone to play with, so you end up pushing swings all evening. And don't expect the ice-cream truck to pull up after the streetlights go on either.

One thing I would definitely miss if I ever moved to a safer and therefore considered best-place-to-live neighborhood would be the incredibly diverse and authentic food. The Ninety-Nine and Outback Steakhouse just don't cut it. How many places will serve you up home-style jerk chicken, baked macaroni and cheese and rice and beans out in Middleton? I didn’t think so. You will find loads of different cuisine styles on every block in the city. But, hey, then again, maybe Olive Garden’s never ending pasta bowl deal just really appeals to you.

We also hold some of the best festivals in the city. Nothing compares to the energy, food, crafts and music that embodies some of our events. Yeah, every town has some kind of parade; even Boston communities like Roslindale hold annual parades or local Holiday fairs. But, I am talking about entertainment that will not be found in a town like Weston. I am talking about our Puerto Rican and Dominican festivals, Caribbean Carnival, Haitian day parade, Roxbury’s International Film Festival, and Jamaica Plain’s Wake up the Earth Day. If you grew up in a town like Framingham and you hold notions about our neighborhoods, do me a favor and go to one of these celebrations. You will have a fantastic experience.

So, if you like bringing your kids to deserted parks, eating at chain restaurants, driving everywhere and overall, just like feeling a bit isolated for the price of safety, then by all means, keep doing what you're doing. But, the next time someone mentions Dorchester to you, please don’t shiver and recoil because we are much more than who you think we are.

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