Grand CentralGrand Central Terminal, where the ballet of commuters plays out in one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.Photo: Sarah GoodyearI am passionately attached to my hometown of New York City. Some people might even say I am pathologically attached. I am a crazy-ass, diehard New Yorker.

While I have lived in other places — six years in California, eight years in Maine, three of those in a very rural community — in the end, I keep coming back to New York. This is where I feel comfortable and accepted. This is where good things happen to me. This is where — and I know there are a lot of people who find this absolutely nuts — this is where I can breathe.

Young men in costume at Lunar new Year celebration.The ever-changing mix of people in New York is one of the things I love most.Photo: Sarah GoodyearWhat I’m saying is that I know what it means to be in love with a place, more than might seem reasonable to people who live elsewhere.

So I was very intrigued to see the results from Gallup’s recent “Soul of the Community” survey. The survey asks residents of 26 communities across the country how attached they feel to their places and why.

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Year after year, what comes to the top of the list is not economic opportunity or other “practical” factors — but instead the things that are much more intangible and yet still deeply felt. Things like friendliness and beauty:

Social offerings are the top driver of attachment in 2010, not only across all 26 communities, but also in every community individually. This includes the availability of arts and cultural opportunities, availability of social community events, the community’s nightlife, whether the community is a good place to meet people, and whether people in the community care about each other.

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A community’s openness is the second most important factor to residents. This is regarding whether residents view their communities as good places for different groups, including older people, families with children, young adults without children, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and young, talented college graduates looking for work.

A community’s aesthetics — in terms of its overall physical beauty and the availability of parks, playgrounds, and trails — is the third most powerful driver of community attachment. A community’s education offerings are the fourth most important driver, which include ratings of local colleges and universities and public K-12 education.

The study got me thinking about the things that attach me to New York. I’ve included pictures illustrating a few of them.

And I’d like to throw the question out to all of you in this season of giving thanks: What makes you care deeply about the place you live, or the place where you grow up? Is it a question of history and familiarity? Of happy memories? A sense of excitement and possibility?

I’d love to hear from you about it and then publish some of your responses. Send pictures and thoughts to me at sgoodyear [at] grist [dot] org, or tag photos on our Flickr group with “homesweethome.”

Brooklyn waterfront sunset.I spend as much time as I can on the city’s miles of waterfront.Photo: Sarah Goodyear