In order to gather the broadest swathe of data representative of our community, we understood from the onset that we would have to go to the community rather than expect the community to come to us.
Before we began to officially gather information for our survey, we experimented with a beta-survey. For the beta-survey, we elected to interview the officers and members of the Executive Committee of Manhattan Community Board 10.
We revised our survey based on the critical and thoughtful responses from the Manhattan Community Board 10 leadership, which included professionals from the NAACP, the National Urban League, city and state governmental agencies, political staffers, community based organizations, business and education professionals, and religious leaders.
With the revised survey in hand, we returned to the Community Board to conduct interviews with attendees at the monthly General Meeting, as well as the monthly meetings of the Board's standing committees. That experience gave us the confidence and preparedness to hit the streets!
Working with youth interns from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, we first surveyed the regular park users. Many of the people surveyed that day were unhoused, suffered from substance abuse and/or mental health challenges. Those challenges however did not prohibit them from having a vision for the future of the site.
We connected with community members and stakeholders at local events where we set up a table to conduct our survey. We attended two annual summer events, both pre-COVID and post-COVID, to collect data: the One Africa Celebration along 116th Street – the main business corridor of our neighborhood – and the Harlem Park-to-Park Festival along Saint Nicholas Avenue.
Working again with another group of interns from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, we canvassed the large NYCHA development at 139 Saint Nicholas Avenue, where Ms. Gloria Wright, the Chairwoman of our Trustee Board, serves as the President of the development’s Residents' Board.
In addition to the NYCHA development, we also canvassed residents at the two city-owned properties located at 201 and 203 West 117th Street, where three members of our Friends group reside: Yolanda Brooks, Elaine Livingston, and Patricia X (need last name).
After canvassing the public housing and city-owned properties, we set up table outside the historic landmark apartment building Graham Court.
After evaluating all of the data we collected, we were surprised to learn that our findings were totally inconsistent with the social reality of our neighborhood’s constituents. Based on our data collected on income, our average was well above the figures provided by the United States Census, as well as the Pratt Institute’s Neighborhood Data Portal.
To correct our data, we set up a phone, mobile, and text canvassing initiative using such databases as VoteBuilder, VAN, and TK.
Over a one-week period, we contacted over one hundred resident-participants living in low-income housing in our catchment area. That initiative helped to make the data we collected more representative, but we also learned that income groups respond differently to participating in survey.
Lower-income residents were less inclined to participate in surveys conducted in public and to share demographic information like income than their middle-income counterparts.
Survey at APR Square
Tabling event (where/when)
Canvassing of buildings around the Square
Phone banking survey