Life in Manhattan is Great, Survey Finds

By Jill Colvin on October 13, 2011 3:19pm 

A panel discusses the findings of the new MAS survey on livability Thurs., Oct.  13, 2011.
A panel discusses the findings of the new MAS survey on livability Thurs., Oct. 13, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MANHATTAN — Despite threats of riots and a rising poverty rate, more than 90 percent of Manhattan residents are satisfied with life in the city, a new survey finds.

According to the Municipal Art Society’s second-annual Survey on Livability, most New Yorkers (83 percent) are just peachy about life in the Big Apple, with Manhattanites leading the pack — especially those who make more than $75,000 a year.

Survey respondents also rated Manhattan the friendliest borough, the safest borough and the best place to live and start a business, and most Manhattan residents said their neighborhoods were clean, with good parks and easy access transportation, and that they felt safe walking around at night.

“Again it becomes kind of a ‘Manhattan wins’ scenario,” said Municipal Art Society President Vin Cipolla, who presented the new findings Thursday morning at the opening of the 2011 MAS Summit for New York City.

Manhattan did, however, lose out to Queens when it came to ratings for the most family-friendly and the best-value borough. And Brooklyn came out as the most "proud."

Despite national studies showing wide dissatisfaction across the country, three-quarters of New Yorkers told pollsters they were optimistic about the future of New York.

Columbia Professor Mindy Thompson Fullilove, who studies the environment and public health, said that while New Yorkers may be deeply frustrated with the economy, spawning movements such as Occupy Wall Street, they may still say they feel “happy” because they feel deeply connected to their neighbors.

“To be able to give voice to the pain that we’re in ... this is what makes people love New York,” she said.

But despite the overall enthusiasm, the results show major differences across the boroughs.

While nearly nine out of 10 Manhattan residents said they were satisfied with their neighborhoods, just a quarter of residents in the Bronx felt the same.

Numbers also varied widely by race, with 21 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Latinos saying they were dissatisfied with their neighborhoods, versus just 9 percent of whites. A breakdown of the race of respondents in each borough was not available.

Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, said he was most surprised by the finding that so many people feel disconnected from the arts.
Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, said he was most surprised by the finding that so many people feel disconnected from the arts.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

It’s almost like the neighborhoods are 'different places',” said Cipolla, who added that while Manhattanites may be happy, “others places in the city are having a very, very difficult experience.”

Thompson Fullilove put it more bluntly: “If you’re a rich, white person living in Manhattan, you’re having a lot of fun,” she said, pointing to recent statistics that show one in five New Yorkers now living in poverty.

“We're creating, certainly in Manhattan, an alabaster tower that will not be accessible,” she said.

Similar to last year, about a third of respondents said they’d move out of the city altogether, if given the chance.

The most interesting finding, Cipolla said, was that while 70 percent of Manhattan residents rated the variety of entertainment options in their neighborhoods as excellent or good, and also gave high grades to arts and cultural offerings, elsewhere in the city that wasn't the case.

The majority of New Yorkers (55 percent) said they were dissatisfied with the variety of entertainment options in their neighborhoods, and two-third said they were dissatisfied with their neighborhoods as places to experience culture (Including 8 out of 10 in the Bronx, who rated them as fair to poor.)

“We’ve seen food deserts. Now we’re looking at culture deserts,” Cipolla said.

Another interesting finding was that, according to the survey, 33 percent of residents said they had participated in a community board meeting — a number that surprised many in attendance, including several members of Community Board 5, leading some to posit that respondents may have confused community boards with other types of community meetings.

The survey of more than 1,000 New Yorkers has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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