09 July 2012

Neighborhood Association

Definition: A citizens’ group tasked with “protecting” the interests of a demarcated section of a city or suburb.

Explanation: As geographers Marc Purcell and Marcia England assert neighborhoods are often viewed by residents as “sites to be protected from outside interests.”  When the spatial boundaries of these areas are “threatened” or order is in some way “jeopardized,” residents are compelled to respond, often through the actions of any of a number of different types of neighborhood associations. At the same time, residents seek to fulfill their normative vision for the space they occupy – that is, they hope to shape the neighborhood to meet their needs and desires.

Example: In Baltimore, neighborhood associations occupied a prominent position in the decision-making hierarchy prior to the passage of strict zoning laws.  One particularly influential group was the Peabody Heights Association.  Members of this organization sought to “improve” their district through beautification efforts such as park expansion and street planting, while discouraging commercial development.  They also attempted to protect the ethnic identity of the neighborhood through the use of restrictive covenants.

Map of “Homogeneous Neighborhoods” in Baltimore ca. 1943.  
 Many of these districts were represented by neighborhood associations.

Contributed by BES Co-PI Geoffrey L. Buckley

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