Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Making Sure Jane Jacobs’ “Eyes on the Street” Can See

The borough of Outremont is supposed to start excavation today to repair street lights which have been out on our block for two months. Apparently someone dug a hole without a permit—and without checking to see where the electrical lines are—and cut those which connect the lights at our end of the block to the rest of the system. “Very complicated to fix,” explained the voice at Public Works both times I called to complain.

This is a relatively quiet street of attached, two story, single-family row houses on 25 by 100 foot lots, bookended by on our side by four-story apartment buildings. It’s mixed ethnically with several Hassidic Jewish families and about an equal number of French-speaking and English-speaking non-religious types. We’ve lived here for 30 years, while the same family has owned the house across the street since it was built during World War I. The two sisters who live there now are 100 and 94: they share the house with the older woman’s daughter who is a vigorous 60-something.

What does an absence of streetlights mean on a street like this? A little less security, a little more worry that somebody might break in while you’re away in the evening or on the weekend. As far as I know nothing has happened, but living this close together—there probably are 350 people on the stretch where the lights are out—it’s important that people can keep track of what’s going on, to make sure that Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” are functioning. So I hope the lights are fixed soon.

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