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Fieldwork Paper

                                                Does Union Hall Unite or Divide?

            Park Slope is a small neighborhood near Prospect Park. Park
slope is home to 63,272 residents. Much like Greenwich Village, described by
Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of
Great American Cities, Park Slope is filled with many families, homes, and
small shops. Union Hall is a bar located on 702 Union Street. It is close to
the outer edge of Park Slope. This makes it a great place for both residents of
Park Slope and neighboring neighborhoods to meet and socialize.  Union Hall is an interesting place to study
because it’s a two-story venue with a “double life”(NYCgo.com). Upstairs has a
homely atmosphere, while downstairs has a going out atmosphere.  

            Park Slope is home to approximately 63,272 residents. 64%
of the population is white, 18% are Hispanic, 10% are Black, 6% are Asian and
3% are other. Majority of the residents are between the ages of 25 and 44
(NYC.gov). The average age of residents is 35 years old (city-data.com). There
is a 1% unemployment rate. 69% of the employed residents work white-collar
jobs, and 31% work blue-collar jobs (point2homes.com). The average household
income is $130,000 (point2homes). Park Slope has a trendy appeal, from bars,
restaurants, to small shops. There are many places to go for people of all
ages, such as museums, restaurants, pottery painting and bookstores. For
families with children, there are playgrounds, puppet shows, dance, music and
art classes. The adults have an array of entertainment for daytime and
nighttime. There are many restaurants, concert venues, little boutiques, and
bars. Park Slope has walkability. Walkability has a positive impact in many
aspects, including the general health of the residents, environmental benefits,
and economic benefits. Park Slope always has people walking the streets, at any
hour. During the day, there are many moms walking with their strollers, and at
night, there are adults walking from pizza stores to bars.

            In
Park Slope there are approximately 28,550 households. Majority of the houses
are brownstones built before 1939 (City-Data). Brownstones were built during
the post-modernism era. They are designed to imitate Romantic Classicism, as
well as the colors of natures. When building a row of houses, the brownstone
leaves a seamless appearance. This leaves the houses looking unified
(Brownstoner). The homeowners are split almost evenly between families and
non-families. Houses can cost from $672,000 to millions. Renting a house costs
minimum $2,000 (City-Data). In the 1970s, Park Slope began gentrifying (Smith).

People from Manhattan began searching for new places to live with more space,
at affordable prices. Like many other cities, with gentrification came better
schooling, and a lower crime rate.  

            Union Hall is a bar located off
the corner of Union Street. Union Street is a main road in Park Slope with many
stores, restaurants, bars, etc.. Union Hall is a two-story bar that  is always dimly lit. As you walk in, there is
a bar. The bar has one bartender on weekdays, Greg. Greg is the first person
you are greeted with when you enter. He is an older gentleman in his 40s or
50s. Across from the bar, there is a library, with couches, side tables, coffee
tables, and a fireplace. As you continue to walk in, behind the fireplace wall,
there are tall tables with no seats. After those tables there are two bocce
courts. On one side of the bocce courts, are two cushioned benches against the
wall. On the other side of the bocce courts, there are two wooden booths, which
can fit up to 6 people, 3 on each side. After the booths, there is a doorway to
the stairs. Past the doorway and bocce courts, there are three steps to go up
to a smaller seating area, with paintings and couches. When you go downstairs,
there is one bathroom, for both men and women with stalls. Past the bathroom
there is another room where they have live music and comedy shows. There is a
stage in the front of the room with chairs and tables around.

            I
have been to Union Hall twice. The first time I went was on October 28th, a
Saturday night, right before Halloween. The second time I went was January
10th, a Wednesday night. On October 28th, the bar was packed to capacity, with
barely any room to walk. But, on January 10th, the bar was comfortably full.

The reason I bring in the first date is to compare the demographics. On both
nights, approximately 90% of the people in Union Hall were white. While
observing on January 10th, I was able to pay more attention to the groups that
were coming in. As my friend, Matthew, and I walked in, the couches were all
filled with couples. We ordered our drinks and looked for a place to sit. We
walked passed a group of 8 men, all dressed in button downs and dress pants. We
sat in a booth and continued to observe our surroundings. Most of the groups
that were there came in groups of 3-6 people. As we continued to watch the 8
dressed up men, I saw 7 of the men talking. One of the men turned his back to
the group, and just stared at the ground for 5 minutes. A new group has now
come to the bocce courts. Two couples, both of the women were Hispanic, as well
as one of the men and the other man looked like a mix of Hispanic and black.

The two couples were dressed in casual clothing. After an hour of being there,
another big group came in. This time there were 5 men, and 3 women. They all
ordered their drinks and then came to play bocce. While the group was playing
bocce one man and one woman went to sit in the cushioned bench against the
wall. The rest of the group stood around the tall tables while 2 people played
bocce. Up the three stairs, in the separate seating area, there was a couple on
one couch. Across from the couple are a couch, and three chairs. On one couch
were three people, and two of the chairs were filled. The couch had three women
and the two chairs had two men. 

            Union
Hall has an aesthetic. The placement of couches, tables, library, and booths
are for specific reasons. The atmosphere of Union Hall is one of comfort. When
you come in, you feel like you are being welcomed into a home. This helps with
the atmosphere, when people feel comfortable; they are more likely to
socialize. The couches are great for couples. They are comfortable, and couples
can sit there and talk for hours. The couches are close enough to feel as you
are included in the atmosphere, but far enough that you can’t overhear each
other’s conversations. Most of the seating is for smaller groups of 2-3 people.

The big groups usually stand around, walk around and talk to each other. The
tall tables with no chairs are placed right behind the bocce courts for what I
assumed was a good reason. When a player is waiting for their turn, they can
stand and lean on a table, rather than having a seat. This allows for the speed
of the game to flow, rather than having to wait for a person to stand back up
and come back to the court. The lack of moveable chairs leads big groups
standing around and socializing, while couples are able to have their privacy
on the couches. The half walls, such as the one with the fireplace, allows for
compartmentalizing the bar. It gives people the opportunity to enter different
aspects of the bar. You can stay in the quiet, private, library area, or you
can continue on to the livelier bocce courts. The night I went, there was a
comedy show downstairs, and however, I stayed up stairs so I can have a more
natural observation. I was more interested in seeing the way people socialized,
and how furniture played a role in groups versus couples interactions. Whereas,
downstairs it would have been people sitting around and watching a comedian for
two hours.

            Union
Hall is a microcosm of Park Slope. Park Slope’s demographic is majority white,
with a small percentage of blacks and Hispanics. In Union Hall, majority of the
people were white, presumably middle to upper class men. In Union Hall, the bartender,
Greg, plays the role of a public character (Jacobs). Public characters are
important to keep a social flow. In Park Slope there are many public characters
in the little shops, sitting outside on stoops, and just walking around. Greg
socializes with everyone that comes into his bar. He spreads the news and
gossip about the neighborhood, much like the public characters of Park Slope.

            While observing Union Hall and the
people within, I found myself very interested in the way people were
interacting. I believe Union Hall does in fact unites people, rather than cause
a social divide. I believe the furniture placement, such as couches, coffee
tables, side tables, fireplace, and even the bocce courts were planned for
purposes. If the library and bocce courts were switched and people walked right
into bocce games there may be a different atmosphere. When people walk into the
library area, it gives a sense of a calm, comfortable and mellow atmosphere. If
people were to walk in and be faced with competitive players of the bocce
court, it would probably affect the mood. I would be interested in going back
to Union Hall and doing some experimental changes. I would like to see if
social interactions would change based on different lighting settings,
different types of seating, including moveable chairs, less couches, space
between couches. If there was seating for big groups, the big groups would be
more secluded. If a big group of people are talking and walking around, they
are more approachable which makes it easier for people to unite.

           

 

           

 

 

 

References

Brownstoner. “The Rise of the Brownstone in
New York.” Brownstoner, 31 Jan. 2017, www.brownstoner.com/architecture/brownstone-brooklyn-architecture-charles-lockwood/.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage,
1961.

“New York, New York Neighborhood Map – Income,
House Prices, Occupations, Boundaries.” New York, NY Neighborhood Map –
Income, House Prices, Occupations – List of Neighborhoods, www.city-data.com/nbmaps/neigh-New-York-NewYork.html#ixzz54ZgYpXTq.

“Point2Homes.” Demographics &
Statistics – Employment, Education, Income Averages, Crime in 11215 – Point2
Homes, www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/NY/New-YorkCity/11215-Demographics.html.

Smith, Neil. “New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification
as Global Urban Strategy.” Antipode, 34: 427–450. doi: 10.1111/1467-8330.00249
(2002). Print.

“Union Hall | The Official Guide to New York
City.” NYCgo.com, www.nycgo.com/nightlife/union-hall1.