My wife and I moved to Belle Meade about two months ago. We fell in love with this neighborhood on the Upper East Side because of the walkability to the Mimo district and because the area has some beautiful historic homes (we purchased a 1940’s bungalow).
Belle Meade today is a semi-gated community. It lies east of Biscayne Blvd and is wedged between Biscayne Bay, NE 6th Court, NE 72nd Terrace and NE 77th Street. It is only accessible by car through a guard gate on NE 76th Street. Bicycles and pedestrians can enter and leave the community through any one of the streets that connect to NE 6th Court.
There has been a bit of a crime wave going through the area. A few weeks ago the police busted a house in Belle Meade that was dealing drugs. Yesterday there was an armed robbery/home invasion one block from my house. Residents are upset, and rightfully so. But now there is talk about closing off all the bicycle and pedestrian access points on NE 6th Court, thereby creating a totally gated community.
I am not a fan of gated communities. I believe that erecting concrete walls sends the wrong message to the greater Miami community. For a community to be truly integrated barriers should not be erected to separate the haves from the have-nots. In addition, research suggests that gated does not equal safer. One thing is certain; they give a very false sense of security to the individuals living within these communities. Creating a proper neighborhood watch program is the answer and will show far greater results then erecting walls.
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), author Jane Jacobs suggested that crime could be reduced by having “eyes on the street.” We can increase eyes on the street by forming a neighborhood watch program. We can also keep the existing eyes on the street by encouraging people to walk or bike, rather than forcing Belle Meade residents to get in their cars every time they need to run an errand on Biscayne Blvd. Erecting walls will only reduce the eyes on the streets of Belle Meade.
We must keep our neighborhood walkable. There is considerable evidence and research which proves that homes in walkable neighborhoods command a premium over non-walkable neighborhoods.
My hope is that one day the guard gate on NE 76th Street can come down too. We should work with the surrounding neighborhoods to make them better, thereby reducing crime and making the entire Upper East Side a more vibrant community.
You can check out how walkable your neighborhood is on Walkscore.
Today I’d like to introduce Drive Score, the anti-walking, pro-sprawl, and guaranteed laziness application which uses incredibly flawed methods to create a map of vehicle accessible areas. One would think if you ranked poorly on Walk Score, you’d rank high on drive score, right? Not necessarily. Just for fun, I entered a highly walkable Manhattan address to see how “drivable” this program claims the city to be and came up with an 88! You know, never mind the bumper to bumper traffic, lack of dedicated parking, or any sane analysis, this program spews out pure gibberish…
The premise is simple, you enter an address and the system characterizes the neighborhood on a 0-100 scale based on how many destinations are within a reasonable (less than 1 mile) walking distance. Essentially any ranking below 25 is is impossible to walk around while scores above 90 signify dense easily accessible neighborhoods. The website takes schools, restaurants, grocery stores, shops, parks, and libraries among other items into consideration when calculating the neighborhoods walk score.
Walk score allows people to quickly find homes in areas where car ownership let alone full dependence on a vehicle is not a requirement. In playing around with the program for a little while you’ll quickly see the disparity between automobile based/designed sprawl areas and true urban neighborhoods. The importance of walking to destinations daily cannot be emphasized enough from a planning perspective or as new research shows as a matter of your health.
President Bush’s Crawford Ranch somehow attained the dubious zero rating. Let us know how your neighborhood compares…
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