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The Brief, Baffling Life of an Accidental New York Neighborhood

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Maps are reflections of our world—how it is organized, how we experience it—or at least that’s what they’re supposed to be. At their best, maps help you understand the space around you, but at their worst, they can warp reality, by stripping communities of their power or rights, for example. And you thought bad directions were the worst that could happen.

Maps are contentious in part because the land is so often tied to identity. Urban neighborhoods, as one of the more nebulous and amorphous spaces for cartography, often make for interesting, if low-stakes, confusion. And when the desire to name and label everything runs into data and algorithms, strange things can happen.


In summer 2018, Jeff Sisson, a 31-year-old software engineer, was a new arrival to Queens, the largest borough in New York City by some 40 square miles. Sisson was getting to know his new environs by foot and bike, and one day while surfing Google Maps, he noticed something strange. He saw a designation on the map for something he had never heard of before, a place called Haberman.

“After having to route myself into some areas that are near that particular place in Queens, it just sort of stood out to me,” he says. “The size of it was large enough that implied something very real, present, and visible, but it was not totally clear what it referred to.”

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In this image looking southeast at the border between Queens and Brooklyn, the area briefly known as Haberman is at center-left, beside Newtown Creek. Photo credit: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia.

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Click the link below for the article:

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-brief-baffling-life-of-an-accidental-new-york-neighborhood?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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