Our research presentation can be found here.
Author Archives: Datrianna Meeks
In the early part of ” Third Places”, by Ray Oldenburg, he speaks about people needing respite from their community and how often times, electronic garage doors and privacy fences help people hide. After reading this, I questioned whether it was community people wanted protection from, or rather, those outside of the community. Based on my experience, it is not the community I seek to protect myself from, but the people outside of the community who venture in for a variety of reasons, none of which include, getting to know the existing community members.
As I read further into the article, I began to reflect on my experiences with third places and how they have impacted my life and the spaces I reside in. I’ve always known that I was the kind of person who enjoyed city life, but there was a point in my life when I lived in the suburbs of Virginia and my lack of access to Third Places really took a toll on my spirit. I didn’t know anyone who lived in walking distance and there were few places nearby that I could visit, if only to escape my amenity-filled, modern apartment. After living in this space for 2 years, I decided to attend graduate school and knew that I wanted to move to New York. I chose New York because I would prefer sensory overload and Third Place overload than continue living in a place with no sense of community. I now live in Harlem and my experience is much closer to what Oldenburg describes when he talks about the role Third Places play in communities. I visit the same coffee shops, bars, and grocery stores every week, and while I would prefer that they be closer, I feel much better than I did before I moved here. Often times, when I’m in Harlem I see the same people over and over, even if I don’t know them by name. After a few encounters, it’s natural to greet them and it feels as though we have an unspoken, mutual understanding that we’re neighbors. While I’ve had a fairly positive experience visiting Third Places in New York, I know that my experience is not the same as every New York resident. With the increase of residential mobility, especially in New York, I think people use the movement of their neighbors as an excuse to not get to know them, because they know it is possible they won’t be around long.
Some additional points that resonated with me, include Oldenburg’s discussion about the impact Third Places have on older adults and the importance of the walkability of neighborhoods. As my grandparents age, they become more and more concerned with gatherings and having people around, both for the enjoyment of company and the health benefits. I recently decided that I want to move, due to the minimal walkability of my neighborhood, so I am in agreement with Oldenburg about the importance of being able to walk to Third Places. Places like parks, coffee shops, and grocery stores top my list of places I’d like to be able to access more easily and Oldenburg names these places as exactly the kind of Third Places neighborhoods should seek to give residents access to.
Lastly, the main thing I’m left thinking about is what happens to Third Places in neighborhoods where gentrification is happening. I think it’s important to determine a way for existing community members feel empowered to share their Third Places and acquaint new neighbors with the area, and for new community members to be open to learning from existing community members.