Tag Archives: community

The Beast That Ate The Village

NYU Leo 2.jpg

As the 2012-13 academic year gets under way, more than
40,000 students from all 50 states and 130 foreign countries are attending the
graduate and undergraduate schools of New York University.  Some of these young scholars will undoubtedly
ride to school in upscale cars or limos: a year at NYU with room and board
costs almost $70,000, a handsome sum that contributes handsomely to the
university’s $2.25 billion in annual revenue.  
Computer printouts in hand, some of the newcomers will follow NYU’s
online directions and drive down Fifth Avenue to the university’s lair in a formerly
scenic area of Greenwich Village, one of Manhattan’s oldest and most historic
neighborhoods. “Fifth Avenue ends at the Washington Square campus,” NYU’s
directions helpfully conclude.

A few students may note that Fifth Avenue does not, in
fact, terminate at the NYU campus, but at Washington Square, a public
park.  However, those who fail to notice
this minor detail can be forgiven for assuming that Washington Square belongs
to NYU.  After years of watching this
celebrated park and nearby blocks treated like Monopoly properties by a private
corporation cloaked in scholarly robes, more than a few residents of Greenwich
Village also mistakenly believe that Washington Square belongs to NYU.  And if the university’s land grab continues, some day it might.

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Immigration And Bowling Alone

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about the release of his new work. Understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating impact on social capital, the fabric of associations, trust and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. In the short to medium range, that is, because in the long run, new communities and new ties are formed, Putnam says. What he fears – correctly – is that his work on the surprisingly negative impact of diversity will become part of the immigration debate.

His study found that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups. Trust, even of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. The problem is not ethnic conflict or worse racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ – that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

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