New York is one of the most diverse cities on the face of the earth. Its huddled masses yearning to breathe free include immigrants from places completely unlike the Big Apple: Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Uruguay—even North Dakota. There are more Greeks in New York than in any other city except for Athens. There are more Jews in New York than there are in Israel. There are neighborhoods that are predominantly Russian, Korean, Arabic, Syrian, Albanian. Jackson Heights in Queens, for example, is home to residents hailing from more than 70 countries. It’s appropriate that the United Nations is headquartered here.
In any sizable community, people from a broad array of ethnic and sociological backgrounds live in close proximity, sometimes under the same co-op roof. Managing a co-op or condo that’s home to a diverse population poses some distinct challenges—and offers profound rewards for administrators and residents alike.
What is Diversity?
The word diversity has come to be shorthand for racial differences, but true diversity extends far beyond that narrow definition.
“As important as it is to have women executives and people of all races in our neighborhoods, diversity is way, way bigger than that,” says diversity expert Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute, a non-profit organization that strives to promote diversity. “Our use of the word ‘diversity’ primarily to address issues of racism, classism, sexism, and other oppressive 'isms' has blinded us to the fact that diversity is a vast fact of life, deeply embedded not only in humanity but in natural systems and in the very fabric of the universe.”
In more grounded terms, diversity indicates differences of all kinds. A building might be diverse because it has many people of color living there; it may be diverse because there are Orthodox Jews in apartments two doors down from dutiful Muslims; it may be diverse because there are a number of gays and bisexuals, or strong-minded libertarians, or radical communists, or artists; it may be diverse because there are elderly people on fixed incomes living side-by-side with 23-year-old hedge fund managers. The important point: any difference, no matter how visible or seemingly inconsequential, contributes to the diversity of a building.