Thoughts on “Third Places”, Emily

Ray Oldenburg describes “third places” as an informal gathering space for the people in a neighborhood. He argues that the need for these places are “important both to individuals and to the communities they live in.” Most of his points claim that these “third places” help grow the neighborhood into a closer, more caring community.

Growing up in the city, I wasn’t sure if I ever had a “third place.” While reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of all the TV shows I watch where families live in the suburbs and everyone knows each other whether in coffee shops or supermarkets. In a city like New York, I never got the chance to experience that. When I was young, my parents would never let me play on the streets, fearing that someone may come around and take me. The doors to the house would always be locked even though I was right outside the house, fearing that someone would break in. Bars would always be installed in all the windows, even if the building were three stories high. Therefore, the idea of a “third place” is not part of my lifestyle and I don’t seem to long for it as much as the author claims I should.

There were some points that Oldenburg made that could be up for debate.

Third places also serve as ‘ports of entry’ for visitors and newcomers to the neighborhood where directions and other information can easily be obtained.”  Not sure if it’s a culture reason or a “just being a typical New Yorker reason” but I have learned to take everything I encounter with skepticism. If someone starts a conversation with me randomly, my imminent thought is that they want something from me or else they wouldn’t be taking their time out to ask me how I am today. Visitors and newcomers can also obtain a vast amount of information about certain neighborhoods by searching on the web. Even before they arrive to the area, they would’ve read all about it in some blog or forum. I’m not arguing that the author is wrong about information being easily obtained, it could be true. But in a place like New York City where the area is always changing and people are always moving in and out of neighborhoods, it is hard to say that this “third place” can serve as much of a guidance for them..

“Third places help unify the neighborhood”.  The descriptions to these statements were rather vague. The author argues that people who live in the same vicinity often fail to know their neighbors because there was an absence of third places. In the few neighborhoods I’ve lived in, even with the presence of what might be considered a “third place” people would still not take the time out to know each other. The time that could be taken to spent in a local deli or pizzeria can be spent at home with loved ones.

My views of a tight knit neighborhood community is not present therefore my views could be biased. The author makes a good case of argument as to why a “third place” is always important in the neighborhood, but I just can’t see it fitting in a metro city, or in my life in general. All in all, I believe that caring for your neighborhood and knowing your surroundings is important, but is knowing what the neighborhood kids and families are up to important to my life? (Very selfish question, I know.)


Filed under Third Places

3 Responses to Thoughts on “Third Places”, Emily

  1. admin

    How about now? Do you participate in any 3rd places? Are there any places that you feel like a “local” or you designate as places that create an iconic moment that helps define a neighborhood or a “place”?

  2. Jessica Halloran

    I’ve had the opportunity to live in a wide range of communities, from large cities to a small town of 72 people. One trend I’ve noticed is that the more people are in proximity to each other, the less they tend to know or want to commune together. Perhaps it’s a security issue, like you mentioned, or perhaps when all you have is each other it’s more important to know your neighbors, but I agree that third places (in the sense that Oldenberg speak about) are not easily found in a place like New York City.

  3. Max Kessler

    Interesting point by Jess, although I definitely agree with your point on skepticism and being weary of anyone who might be asking you for something. Having bars on your windows throughout growing up could definitely be a subconscious but also physical example of this perspective. How could we change this paradigm in the New York landscape.

    I also agree that it’s hard to image New York as a third place. There is a pretty hesitant culture in New York to reach out or be friendly, at least in a casual setting. It’s interesting to think about the moments when people do actually connect with one another, like in crisis, or through sports.

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