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Welcome Aboard: Samantha Page

By Eric Richardson
Published: Sunday, September 14, 2008, at 08:48PM

If you're the sort to pay attention to bylines on the stories we run, you might have noticed a new name on Friday's piece titled "Park(ing) (Pre)view". Samantha Page is in the graduate journalism program at USC's Annenberg School, and we're excited to welcome her to blogdowntown.

Samantha's from the east coast, having been born in Maine and relocating here from New York City. She has also lived in Connecticut, Minnesota, Italy and Thailand.

Though she lives in Hollywood, Samantha has already proven to be quite capable when it comes to picking up what's going on here in Downtown. Her last job before making the move into journalism was with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, so she's got a lot of experience in planning issues and redevelopment.

In order to help with the introductions, this weekend I asked Samantha a few questions about her path and how she ended up here, interested in Downtown.

ERIC RICHARDSON: You're new to Downtown L.A., but certainly no stranger to big city life. How did you end up going from a Psychology degree to working for the New York City Economic Development Corp.?

SAMANTHA PAGE: Well, after college I really wanted to travel, so I went overseas to teach English. I was in Thailand for a just about a year and a half. I really loved living abroad and experiencing a totally different way of life, but by the second Christmas I was ready to go home. My family is all in New England, and a lot of my friends had landed in New York, so that seemed like the obvious next place - close to home, but not too close!

I still didn't have much of a career plan (teaching English doesn't get you a lot of jobs in New York, either), so I was very open to different fields. Actually, a friend hooked me up with the first position I got - as an assistant at NYCEDC. The rest, as they say, is history.

(For those of you who aren't familiar with it (sacrilege!) NYCEDC is basically the New York version of L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency. I worked in the government and community relations department, and eventually came to represent NYCEDC in the Bronx.)

ER: You've mentioned to me that you see some similarities between what's happening in Downtown right now and some of what you saw working in the Bronx.

SP: There are a lot of parallels between the two areas, particularly the South Bronx, which is where most of the new development is happening. Both the South Bronx and Downtown have historically been victims of divestment by their civic authorities. In the seventies, New York basically went bankrupt, and in the process, they really pulled out of the Bronx in terms of police and fire protections, which dominoed the process of under-development. Downtown you had the containment policy that concentrated Skid Row and created a part of Downtown that people looked away from rather than trying to really solve problems.

Now, both areas are changing rapidly. The South Bronx is also a civic center, oddly enough, like Downtown, and there is a lot of private investment going on there now. There are a lot of new shopping centers, in particular, but also a huge revival of the community and a great deal of activism in terms of better schools, amenities for children, and improved public spaces. You also have the tensions that come with a changing demographic - a lot of younger professionals are moving into the South Bronx, and the face of the neighborhood is really changing. I hear a lot of the same excitement and concerns from people Downtown that I saw in New York.

ER: You're making a career jump into journalism. Was that something you always wanted to do, or an interest that developed after you were out working?

SP: I have always been a writer, someone who is really into language and expression, so I've always planned on making writing part of my career, but I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do. As I was exposed to more and more kinds of writing, I really found that features, news and commentary were things that drove me. I love the structure of short pieces, and I love that idea of sharing information - talking to people and figuring out all the different sides.

It was really after self-publishing my own spoof newsletter for friends at work that I decided I should probably just go back to school and get serious about it.

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