The Office of Neighborhood Services From the Fens to the Bakc Bay

While New York City is defined by its classic architecture and familiar skyline, Boston is defined by its unique collection of neighborhoods and ethnic diversity. Twenty-one neighborhoods make up Boston proper and to find out a little more about each individual enclave, we went to Mayor Thomas Menino’s Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) to get a little flavor of what makes this cosmopolitan city tick.

Boston is a city with a rich past, from its Puritan beginnings and Revolutionary War history to its status today as a world class center of finance, high-tech computer and research facilities. But more than that, says Mayor Menino, it prides itself on its neighborhoods.

The mission of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services is to encourage, facilitate and maximize citizen input and participation in all aspects of government through service requests, neighborhood meetings, mailings and emergency responses. “We’re basically the mayor’s eyes and ears in the community—and the community’s eyes and ears to the mayor,” says Nikko Mendoza, an associate director in the Mayor’sOffice of Neighborhood Services (ONS).

Twenty-One

Boston is home to 21 eclectic neighborhoods from Beacon Hill to Fenway to South Boston and the Back Bay, Mendoza explains, and has 19 neighborhood coordinators in place to facilitate this interaction with city government. Some of the coordinators handle more than one neighborhood, she says. For example, Dorchester, the city’s biggest neighborhood population-wise, is split among three people who coordinate between the mayor’s office and his constituents, according to Mendoza. Boston itself has an estimated population of 590,763, according to 2006 figures fromthe U.S. Census, and about 134,000 people reside in Dorchester.

The ONS began when Mayor Menino took office back in 1993, and it was one of his first initiatives to expand on the role ofneighborhood services. The primary role of the coordinators is to serve as a single point of contact between the mayor’s office and residents, allowing them to ask questions, get information and express concerns about how the city is being run.

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