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What's it like to live in East New York?
firiel11 wrote in little_details
Searched for:  life in East New York Brooklyn, living in East New York Brooklyn,  what's it's like to live in East New York, questions related to East New York and New Lots Brookl

Setting: East New York, New Lots

Year: 2137

OK, so I'm here with another question related to the US. Right now I'm working on a post-apocalyptic steampunk/biopunk retelling of Oliver Twist which is set after a global nuclear war destroyed the centre of New York City. After the war, the city of New York as a whole has now become much smaller and consists of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Brooklyn has become a separate city again. The story's written as the diary of the Artful Dodger. Fagin's gang, which in this version includes girls, hide out in a warehouse in East New York (New Lots area) which has grown steadily worse.

What is it actually like to live in East New York? Specifically the New Lots section. What's the culture of the area like beyond the bad reputation? Is it one of those places where there's a strong sense of community? Do different ethnic groups tend to stick together or mix easily? Are there any other things about this area that I should know if I want to write an accurate, non-biased, without Unfortunate-Implications story set there?

Thanks in advance (and apologies if I accidentally offend anyone).

Who cares? It's 120 years from now! Just within my own lifetime I've seen a bad neighborhood become an okay one, and two not-much-there neighborhoods become chichi and fashionable. I've seen some ethnic groups decline dramatically in prominence, and others become much, much more visible. I've witnessed the entire birth of an ethnic neighborhood in my very own backyard.

120 years ago, the map of the city was wildly different than it is today, and I have no doubt that in another 120 years it will be equally nearly unrecognizable. Change is the only constant.

I agree. Things will change quite a lot by then, especially considering the circumstances and history you describe. In 120 years or so, and after a nuclear war, racial tensions might have altered ("we've all got to pull together" mentality which could include more intermarriage and thus a blurring of ethnic lines or if some group survived better/more prosperously, others could resent them). Also I would consider what buildings (or types of buildings) might have survived and been made over for the physical setting and perhaps research the slums of London and New York at the time the original Oliver Twist was set and see how the neighborhood interacted with other areas and how the residents acted towards each other and use that as a springboard.

EDIT: my husband says there's an older tabletop game called The Morrow Project (and extra modules) that can help you work out things like nuclear fallout and rebuilding, but you do have to ignore a lot of the computer stuff--that's outdated!

Edited at 2013-11-28 05:53 am (UTC)

@hibiscusrose: Thanks. For some reason your post shows up twice in my inbox.

Possibly because I edited it--that's happened to me before. Somebody responds, then edits before I read the original, and *poof* two new messages! No worries.

Fully agreed. I lived in NYC a little over a decade ago, and when I go back now I don't recognize the neighborhoods I lived in AT ALL. They've gentrified unbelievably. They've beyond gentrified. If they could change that much in a decade, you can make a case for any change you want to make in 120 years.

I was going to question the blast radius issue, but I ran Nukemap and it looks like East New York would do OK.

@tafkarfanfic: Just curious-- where are you from? (Guessing somewhere in the US). When you lived in NYC did you ever pass by East New York?

When I lived in NYC I spent all my time in Manhattan. At that time even Alphabet City was still somewhat dodgy.

Really, honestly, NYC changes so much every 10-15 years that you could say ANY neighborhood was rich or poor 100 years from now and it could be true. In the 70s you could get mugged anywhere in NYC.

a global nuclear war destroyed the centre of New York City. After the war, the city of New York as a whole has now become much smaller and consists of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island

Uh, what are you defining as "the center of New York City"? Also, a nuke set off anywhere around here would make the whole place uninhabitable for quite a long time.

Sorry. I should've written "the centre of Manhattan."

A couple of years ago I drove through East New York via Pennsylvania Ave and Linden Blvd a couple of times a week; East New York currently seems to be mostly poor working-class African Americans and Hispanics. IIRC, there were plenty of mom and pop stores (including pawn shops) and Caribbean restaurants along Pennsylvania Ave; Linden Blvd had a lot of used car lots and auto repair shops.

However, as others have said, you could pretty much write what you want about the area if you are writing 100 years into the future.

Not in NY personally, but I've noticed various major cities have neighborhoods that change pretty radically in 20 years. It takes a stable income and situation for people to maintain a particular kind of neighborhood in the face of physical entropy such as buildings that need rewiring, replumbing, etc., and if buildings get too bad, it depends on local demand for land along that street to justify knocking it down or repurposing it. You might need to consider the economics of the area in the time of your story. New York right now is the East Coast center of a lot of regional and national business coordination from the US across the Atlantic. All the neighborhoods have high housing and office space demands, high rental price pressures, driving the occupation of space in the entire area. People commute in long distances. New York was and remains a major site for industrial transfer of containers from ships to highways.
But in your new economy, is this still true? I suggest consulting maps on the relation of the harbor to your neighborhood and how practical it is to serve the same transfer of goods function as it used to. Also, who is still alive to trade with? Is there anybody in the interior of the former US to trade with on longer-distance routes? What other cities are still alive, and what goods can they produce? Is London still around? Do your people have cross-ocean commerce with survivors? Where are the docks now, what sort of demand is there for such trade? What sort of command does the remaining live site have on control of the dock areas?
Also important is your decision on what happens with ongoing melting of sea ice, and the rise of sea level, and how fast it is rising. Of course it's your choice whether to ignore various predictions, but from a purely selfish writer's POV, consider the many intriguing scenarios that open up if the shape of the coastline is radically different from what it used to be, not just from bits of unstable historical infill and fancy construction that got destroyed during the nuke attack (and very likely conventional explosives by the megaton as well, come to think) but by the failure of coastal walls and the rise of sea level into all the traditional buildings in formerly habitable areas. Are salvage divers part of your population??

Edited at 2013-11-30 03:10 am (UTC)

Thanks for all the suggestions nagasvoice!