Identifying A Church In Corona, Queens

In City Form, New York City, A Sense of Place by Amy1 Comment

Lynch’s Image of the City accurately describes the differences between our cognitive maps and the geographic maps that help us navigate city streets. Our cognitive maps evolve from the experiences we have with space, but geographic maps rarely tell stories. Although there are stark differences between a cognitive and geographic map, they can also inform each other to help make navigating easier. Google map is an example of two maps merging because when we zoom into the exact street of interest, Google Maps will tell us which stores are on what streets. These stores can identify as a landmark or a node, which Lynch tells us are some of the building blocks to creating the image of the city in our minds.

I remember a time when created an image of an unknown neighborhoods after visiting it only once. I was going to attend a summer workshop and all I had to navigate was an address. Luckily, we had access to Google Maps when I was a freshman in high school so it was easy for me to print out a map and use it as a guide. The map let me know that the nearest subway stop was three blocks away from the address. I was to get off at 103st on the 7-line train. What it didn’t tell me was that I would be in Corona, Queens, which was a neighborhood I’ve never ventured into before. I didn’t know what to expect but I found it relatively easy to navigate. The 7-line runs along Roosevelt Avenue straight through Queens and acts like a path according to Lynch’s book. One could easily reorient oneself after finding the rather loud sounds of the 7 train moving through Roosevelt avenue. The smaller streets that branched out from the large avenue were paths into less dense residential neighborhoods and more confusing, but could be easily identified by the street names, numbered signs. The commercial stores that lined Roosevelt Avenue at 103rd stop were also common along the rest of the Avenue, which suggested that it was a busy hub. These stores acted as nodes and reminded me of how different this community was from my hometown just a few miles away. The stores at 103rd have awnings written in Spanish and the food predominately catered to a Spanish population. Although, I felt out of place in the community, I still felt comfortable enough to navigate.

After getting off the subway, I still had to walk to my destination that was three blocks into the residential community. If I had any fear that I was going to get lost, it was because I was wandering into an area where there were no unique landmarks or signals, and where all the houses looked the same. I was surrounded by three- to four-story townhouses with similar white-washed paint, or brick façade. Nothing looked familiar but as long as I was familiar with where Roosevelt Avenue was I felt assured that I wouldn’t be lost. As I wander deeper into the community I spotted an unusual landmark. Ahead of me was a massive Catholic church that stretched the entire block. Conveniently, the church was also my destination. Although I am not religious, I imagine that I felt the same relief that other religious individuals may feel when they lay eyes on a church or place of worship. It was a calm comfort of feeling safe in a new environment.

The address on paper and on Google Maps did not convey the emotional feelings I had from regularly visiting the church that summer and the memories I have of regularly getting Mexican ices from the street vendor. The address alone was not enough to convey the importance of the church to people navigating in the area – Google Maps didn’t even recognize the space as a church. However, when I talk to people living in Corona, the first thing I mention is the Church, and the funeral home across from the street. Local people immediately know what streets and neighborhood I am referring to, and although it is located in a less dense area it remains a significant landmark in the community.


  1. This demarcation, between our cognitive maps and our geographic maps, frames your post; a reminder whose presence reminds of the very consistency of that barrier itself. Yet at the same time, you work to draw a pivotal interdependence between these two readings of geographic space; the practicality of the Google Map determines your ability to find your destination, to register the location of the church in your cognitive map (conversely, if your Google map is mistaken, your cognitive map is drawn from your experience of being, relatively speaking, lost). But despite its command of certain urban geographic space, the Google map is existentially alienating, “rarely tell[ing] stories.” Hence, both of these maps are needed simultaneously: in conversation the physicality of the church becomes a reference point, a reference point only powered by the cognitive connotations it confers. Which adds perhaps a slapdash of urgency to the Mosers’ findings in the NYT article, if these maps work simultaneously socially, do they do the same in the very contours of the mind?

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