What City of Neighborhoods?

Here is a table of New York community boards, with their employed resident and job counts, broken down by how many people live and work in the same community board and how many in the same borough:

BoroughCBEmp. res.In same borough%In CB%JobsFrom same borough%From CB %


  1. The data uses the all-jobs filter on OnTheMap, which assigns a lot of public-sector jobs in the city to City Hall or Brooklyn Borough Hall. The actual number of workers in Brooklyn CB 2 is lower than stated, by perhaps 60,000. The definition of CBs also excludes a few parts of the city with jobs, including the airports. Finally, Marble Hill is in Manhattan but is in the Bronx CB 8; it is counted in Manhattan throughout in same-borough job counts but as part of the Bronx CB 8 in CB job and resident counts.
  2. Very few people work in the same community board they live in. Citywide, it’s 7.8%. The numbers are only high in Manhattan CB 5, which consists of Midtown and is so expensive to live in that people live there if they’re high-income commuters choosing a short walking commute. And yet, local politics is dominated by those 7.8%, who think owning a business near where they live makes them more moral than the rest of the city.
  3. Even working and living in the same borough is not that common, only 38.7% citywide. It’s only a majority in Manhattan and a bare majority in two Outer Borough CBs, Brooklyn 7 and 12 (Sunset Park and Borough Park).
  4. Staten Island, which has a strong not-the-rest-of-the-city political identity, relies on the rest of the city’s economy. Only 25.8% of employed residents work within the borough, and 55.6% work in the other four boroughs, the remaining working in the suburbs. Slightly more Staten Island residents work in Manhattan than on Staten Island.
  5. The majority of people working in New York live outside the borough they work in, and this is true even excluding Manhattan, only 45.7% of outer-borough workers living in the borough they work in.
  6. The Bronx CB 2 is on net a job center and not a bedroom community, due to industrial jobs in Hunts Point.


  1. Sassy

    I’m kinda fuzzy on the meaning of the phrase “city of neighborhoods” in relation to NYC employment?

    I see it used to describe some other cities like Chicago and Toronto, but it seems to be emphasizing the diverse “neighborhood character” or history. I’ve heard Tokyo described with a similar phrase “city of villages” but that is more in relation to neighborhood social circles or history.

    Based on the title, is “city of neighborhoods” to imply “most people live and work in the same neighborhood” with the blog post written to dispel such myth? It would be the first time I’ve heard of such myth myself, but I’m not deeply integrated with American culture, especially East Coast.

    • Alon Levy

      It’s a common refrain in Brooklyn, too, contrasted with Manhattan, that awful place where people work in tall buildings. Except, well, Brooklynites work in these buildings too – OnTheMap has slightly more Brooklyn-to-Manhattan commuters (40.1%) than Brooklyn-to-Brooklyn commuters (35.3%).

      • SB

        “It’s a common refrain in Brooklyn, too, contrasted with Manhattan, that awful place where people work in tall buildings.”
        I don’t think anyone thinks or says that.
        No one cares whether people in Brooklyn work in tall buildings in Manhattan or not.
        Brooklyn NIMBYS are more like “Manhattan is full of tall buildings and “we” prefer that our neighborhood in Brooklyn doesn’t have tall buildings because it doesn’t fit our neighborhood.”

    • Michael Lugo

      I’ve also heard “city of neighborhoods” used to describe Philadelphia, and I always took it to mean that neighborhoods had different characters, not that people necessarily live near where they work.

      A quick google for “city of neighborhoods” shows on the first page, for me, pages describing Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Rochester (!), and Metropolis (!!; https://dcextendeduniverse.fandom.com/wiki/A_CITY_OF_NEIGHBORHOODS) in this way. Atlanta honestly seems like the outlier here, but I live there and Google knows this.

    • Luke

      I think it’s broadly reflective of the fact that despite the fact that–as in most other developed countries–America is dependent on its urban areas for economic vitality, most Americans don’t consider themselves “urban”. This line of thought often extends into, “we don’t need cities; we live and work on our own; cities are bad and full of bad people”. The racial tones sentiments embedded in this line of thought are apparent, too, in the use of the word “urban” to refer to POC, especially African Americans.

      It was among the more grating elements of my southwestern New Hampshire upbringing, where “turning into Massachussetts” is among the more common anti-development scarequote phrases, despite the fact that so many people who live in New Hampshire work in Massachussetts, and so many people from Massachussetts support the local economy by coming up here to shop.

    • borners

      @Sassy Tokyo is probably the worst case in Japan for that after the settler cities of Hokkaido if we are talking about “village” employment. The sheer scale of suburbanization compared overwhelmed the mostly agrarian villages that preceded it. Heck Shibuya/Shinjuku still had rice fields in walking distance into the 1940’s. There is a lot of interchangeable “Tokyo area suburbia” where the exciting stuff is done in the centre. There are exceptions Kawagoe, Kamakura, Odawara and Hachioji had a rich history and non-agrarian economies pre-1914. The industrial areas Kawasaki, Adachi etc are partial exceptions and as are the prefectural hubs of Chiba/Yokohama/Omiya.

      The situation is more like that in the other parts of Honshu, Northern Kyushu, Aichi and of course Keihanshin where lots of historic port, industrial, religious and court institutions give it much more of collection of villages feel even in Kyoto. You can see it in mode share figures where rail is lower but bikes/walking are much higher in Osaka compared to Tokyo but car share is similar.

      But “neighborhoods” those are quite strong thanks to the way that schools, libraries and local government are structured. The permissive mixed use zoning helps too. And a lot of soft NGO social capital with universities, private museums etc. And of course the railway companies do their bit too.

  2. Eric2

    I find the table headers extremely confusing. Using full words and more words would be very helpful (the header cells could include line breaks to preserve horizontal space). Also, using line borders for the table would make it clearer (at least to separate header from body, and groups of related columns from unrelated columns).

    • jcranmer

      Right-aligning numeric data also works wonders. Especially here where the excessively long header names causes a natural big whitespace break between column names. (I did a test with locally editing CSS rules).

  3. df1982

    Shock! Staten Island is full of suburban commuters. What is really your point here? Literally nobody in Staten Island thinks that the borough’s identity is predicated on its residents not working in other parts of the city.

    • Alon Levy

      My point is that Staten Island politics is run by cops and by intra-borough commuters (e.g. small business owners) and not by the mass of blue- and white-collar commuters who work in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

      • df1982

        That boils down to a class difference rather than a where-do-you-work difference. The people who are employed in the small businesses in Staten Island are doubtless just as disenfranchised from local politics as the workers commuting to Manhattan, and probably more so since they are likely to earn even less.

        • Lee Ratner

          There needs to be a difference between disenfranchisement and just not caring about politics.

  4. Stephen Bauman

    The journey to work distance, which can also be estimated from the LEHD census data. This can also be combined with subway stop locations to determine the where and how many workers are likely to walk or need a bus to/from the subway. I assert this is a better measure of where new rail facilities should be built than a rule based “infill” or where existing rail lines are/were located approach. (My criterion is how many additional worker residences and work places are brought within subway walking distance – 1/2 mile.)

    “which assigns a lot of public-sector jobs in the city to City Hall or Brooklyn Borough Hall. ”
    This problem also applies to private-sector jobs. The LEHD weakness is that it relies on workers unemployment form data. The job location is based on the address the employer supplies. It may be the home office, rather than an actual work location. I’ve had to look for outliers before analyzing the data.

    There are also Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTA’s) that are more aligned by neighborhoods, than the community boards. The LEHD data is census block-to-census block. I’ve grouped the data by borough, legislative districts, community board districts and NTA’s. I don’t know whether such groupings are that informative.

  5. SB

    I think it is more interesting that around half of the jobs in outer 4 boroughs have employees who doesn’t live that borough.
    Adding in the data about people who live outside of the 5 boroughs and commute to NYC and people in NYC who commute outside of the 5 boroughs would be interesting.

  6. Lee Ratner

    IMO, I’ve never heard the phrase city of neighborhoods refer to the fact that people literally live and work in the same neighborhood like they were all self-contained urban villages. It means that the city can be divided into different places with their own character and communal identity based on demographics, businesses, and institutions etc. At least with New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, and Tokyo this is literally true.

  7. jack (@jlichyen)

    What, exactly, are you criticizing here? Is this to counter some NIMBY argument about “overdevelopment”? Although the chart is incredibly difficult to understand, the main message I’m getting out of these numbers is that outerborough transportation connections need improvement, something any regular reader of your blog should have already accepted as a basic truth by now.

    • ericson2314

      Community boards were created ostensibly to allow local politics that were previously silenced to have a voice. But instead it’s become a way for the petite bourgeois to stonewall things.

      The data is being used to that peoples lives spent crossing boundaries also makes this type of hyperlocal politics a non-thing to protect in the first place.

      • Alon Levy

        Community boards were created to give the petite bourgeoisie more power. Jane Jacobs didn’t use that term, but she’s very clear in The Death and Life that to her, the vanguard class of urbanism is the petite bourgeoisie, giving anecdotes of the key role played by small business owners. She even plays that middle-class populist game saying elites prefer the wealthy and the poor to the middle class (apparently, a journalist married to an architect owning a single-family rowhouse in the Village don’t count as wealthy). This is not an unintended consequence. Jacobs didn’t intend to socially deurbanize the city into village-like districts, dominated by neighborhood gossip rather than ideological politics, but the small business vanguardism is fully intended.

        • adirondacker12800

          They hadn’t started to call it gentrification yet. And back then it wasn’t the Village. Maybe perhaps the West Village but back then the Village was east of Sixth or perhaps at a stretch east of Seventh.

          • Alon Levy

            She called it unslumming and treated it as an unalloyed good because she was a middlebrow writer with zero understanding of socioeconomic class as a driver of social and political trends.

          • adirondacker12800

            If she was unslumming she wasn’t moving into a middle class neighborhood. Things have changed in the past 60 years. Stuff like that happens in thriving dynamic cities.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, she was moving to a neighborhood shifting from working- to middle-class in the 1930s, and by the 1950s it was a middle-class neighborhood. The origin of the freeway revolt is that because gentrification hadn’t happened organically before, Robert Moses assumed that, since the neighborhood had been poor in his youth and hadn’t been urban-renewed, it must still be poor and therefore eligible for demolition for freeways, whereas had he understood that it was populated by rich WASPs like the Jacobses he would’ve treated it like the Upper East Side.

          • adirondacker12800

            So she wasn’t unslumming?
            The Fifth Avenue Extension revolt was by the upper middle class people who have been living the early 19th Century rowhouses in the vicinity of Washington Square since they were built. The LOMEX wasn’t in the Village then and it wouldn’t be in today’s greatly expanded Village either. It’s too bad reality doesn’t agree with your myths.

  8. ericson2314

    > The majority of people working in New York live outside the borough they work in, and this is true even excluding Manhattan, only 45.7% of outer-borough workers living in the borough they work in.

    Do you mean excluding people that live in Manhattan, work in Manhattan or both? Probably not the first as that is a weaker statement, but what about the second 2?

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