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Mapping Religious Structures in Multiethnic Queens

For the ‘Adapted for Devotion’ project, we are currently in the process of identifying and cataloging various religious structures in our study area. We are focused on a cluster of neighborhoods in Western Queens with high levels of social diversity achieved through immigration. However, neighborhood definition can be challenging in New York City, as they are not officially designated political or geographic units.

The smallest unit of organization in New York is the Community District (CD), of which there are 59. Each CD has a Community Board that reports to its respective Borough President. But CDs are too large for our purposes, as they include multiple neighborhoods, and sometimes divide neighborhoods between them. As a workaround, the Planning Department established Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs) to approximate neighborhood boundaries using census tracts. While the 'neighborhood' remains an essentially affective / ideological construct, the NTAs provide a useful approximation for the purposes of data collection.

Our study area spans 7 Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs), including Jackson Heights (QN0301), Elmhurst (QN0401), East Elmhurst (QN0302), Sunnyside (QN0202), Woodside (QN0203), Corona (QN0402), and North Corona (QN0303). 
Our project is concerned with the adaptation of buildings for purposes of religious worship and devotion. In order to identify such buildings, we have used online resources to catalog as many as we can find within the 7 NTAs. For comparative purposes, we are also including all purpose-built religious structures.

Thus far we have used a variety of sources to identify places of worship, including Google Maps, the database of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Facebook, and other online resources. Fine-grained applications such as Google Street View have been helpful to find smaller local religious spaces, including those that do not have their own building, such as churches that congregate in a community center on the weekends.

As we build our database, we cross reference city maps with the NTAs to ensure that each building is within the boundaries of our study area. We then use Google Street View to gather preliminary information on the property, including signage, decorative elements, and building typology (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial). After we collect this information, we will be conducting sidewalk and windshield studies to confirm information on building typology found online, and hopefully to find new entries that we missed.

As of June 2024, we have cataloged over 120 religious spaces, from various religions and denominations. Entries in the database include the congregation's name, address, geolocation, NTA, denomination, subdenomination (if applicable), adaptation type, building type, external features, and photographs. All of the information is plugged into Airtable, so the database looks like this:
Once we have a more or less comprehensive database, we will begin the next phase of research, which will include constructing typologies of adaptation, making detailed field observations, conducting interviews with religious leaders and congregants, and creating GIS maps.


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