Over the decades, living in the East Village has been about finding cheap housing. But there was much more to the equation. Historically a first stop for new immigrants, the neighborhood became associated with the counterculture, art and the punk movement in the 1970s, and living there served as a sort of rite of passage for people of a certain age and inclination.
Much of that history has disappeared as home prices and retail rents have escalated, but for some residents it is not completely gone.
“I think the neighborhood still has that heart and soul — at least what it hadn’t already lost by the late ’90s,” said Peter Feld, an editor and writer born in Manhattan who spent years visiting the East Village before moving there in 1999. “It’s still a mix of great, but mostly affordable, restaurants, nice and divey bars, longtime residents, drunken N.Y.U. kids and older drunks, boutiques that don’t open till noon or later, creative types and the beloved crusties,” he added, alluding to the young visitors with bedrolls and dirty clothes who have traditionally arrived in warm weather.
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The neighborhood, with about 72,000 residents, is typically seen as bounded by 14th Street and East Houston Street, the Bowery/Fourth Avenue and the East River. Almost 40 percent of the neighborhood is between the ages of 20 and 34, according to census data.
A low-slung neighborhood with a lot of 19th- and early 20th-century buildings, the East Village was rezoned in 2008 in an attempt to keep new development contextual, and two new historic districts protecting three swathes of buildings were added in 2012; the original St. Mark’s Historic District was designated in 1969.
While the designations seem to have curbed most new development, conversions of older buildings into upscale housing are driving up housing prices, said Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3, who lives in the East Village. Small mom-and-pop shops are closing, unable to afford retail rents, with those spaces being taken over by chain retailers.
Instead of local bars and restaurants, she said, “now, we have destination nightclubs and destination celebrity chef restaurants. So what’s happening is they’re bringing people in to party, basically, and we’re losing both food and bar and other retail that used to serve the community.”
Julian LaVerdiere, an artist who was a resident until recently, said, “I feel like Yorkville got transplanted to the East Village,” referring to another East Side neighborhood known as a postgraduate playground. Mr. LaVerdiere bought a one-bedroom apartment on 12th Street in 2007 for $900,000 and recently sold it for $1.2 million — a tidy profit he took to buy a house in Brooklyn.
Still, the neighborhood has a genuine vibe that is not easy to find elsewhere, said Sky Dylan-Robbins, a native New Yorker and video journalist who has lived in the East Village for three years.
“Despite the glossiness that’s seeped into every grungy-but-lovely cranny of the neighborhood — and of New York, in general — the smaller streets, not the avenues, of the East Village do feel reminiscent of an authentic New York City that once was,” she said.
What You’ll Find
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East Village housing consists mostly of early- to mid-20th-century walk-up and elevator buildings of four and five stories, said Douglas Wagner, a broker and East Village specialist with Bond New York. There are also townhouses and single-family homes, many converted to multifamilies, as well as loft buildings, said Jeremy V. Stein, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty, who often works in the area.
There has been quite a bit of new development. In fact, the Jefferson at 211 East 13th Street, a condo with about 80 units and the target of some East Villagers’ ire as a symbol of gentrification, was second in Manhattan for the largest number of closed sales through Nov. 30 with 78, said Gabby Warshawer, the director of research for CityRealty, a real estate listings and research service.
What You’ll Pay
Though home prices are no longer cheap, the East Village still offers a slim advantage in terms of value over other Manhattan neighborhoods, Ms. Warshawer said. The average price per square foot of a condo in Manhattan this year through Nov. 30 is $1,643; in the East Village, it is $1,562, which is about 16.5 percent higher than 2013. There are only about 33 condos on the market, Ms. Warshawer said.
Mr. Wagner said he does not notice much difference between average condo prices in the East Village and those in Chelsea or the West Village. Studios typically run around $485,000; one-bedrooms about $900,000; and two-bedrooms about $1.5 million, with outliers in both directions. Co-ops typically cost about 20 percent less than condos, he said.
There are many rentals in the East Village, with 340 open listings in early December, Mr. Wagner said. At the low end, studios run from around $1,850 to $2,300 a month; in some new developments, they go for well above $3,000. One-bedrooms typically range from about $2,300 into the low $4,000s a month, he said. Two-bedrooms start at around $3,500 a month but more commonly cost more than $4,500. Most three-bedrooms go for $4,850 to $5,300 a month, but can cost as much as $10,000 a month, Mr. Wagner said.
There are many subway stops on the neighborhood’s perimeter. The 4, 5 and 6 trains stop at Union Square, as do the N, R and Q trains. (The 6 train also stops at Astor Place, and the 4 does at night.) The Union Square station offers access to the L train, which runs along 14th Street and into Brooklyn, with stops in the neighborhood at First and Third Avenues. The F train stops at Second Avenue and East Houston. Buses serving the area include the 14A, 14D, 8 and 9.
What to Do
Grieving over lost shops and restaurants is a pastime in the East Village, with the number of holdouts from a former era thinning. The building that housed the club CBGB, billed as “the birthplace of punk,” now has a John Varvatos shop, and the 110-year-old Italian bakery De Robertis Pasticceria and Caffe closed earlier this month. Newer restaurants include the popular Estela, with European-influenced American cuisine, and the Italian restaurant San Marzano. Curry Row, around Sixth Street, offers Indian food, while Japanese cuisine can be found on Ninth Street between Second and Third Avenues and 10th Street between First and Second Avenues.
The East Village is home to several small theaters, and while galleries are no longer prevalent, the exhibition space at P.S. 122 Gallery is popular. The 10.5-acre Tompkins Square Park has two playgrounds, a dog run, handball, chess and basketball. St. Marks Place is a quirky, lively strip where head shops coexist with Federal mansions.
Schools are not the first thing that come to mind in association with the East Village, and the area seems to have a lack of affordable child-care programs and family-friendly restaurants these days, Ms. Stetzer said. Schools include Public School 15 Roberto Clemente; Tompkins Square Middle School; and East Side Community High School. Public School 15 received a C on its latest progress report, and at East Side this year, SAT averages were 424 in reading, 426 in math and 422 in writing, versus 441, 463 and 436 citywide.
The East Village was originally a farm, or bouwerie, covering an area that is now Fourth Avenue to the East River, and 17th Street to Fifth Street. Irish and German immigrants moved into the neighborhood starting around the 1850s, and in the early 1900s, Italians and Eastern European Jews followed.
Poles, Ukrainians and Puerto Ricans began arriving after World War II. In the late 1950s and 1960s, an incursion of beatniks, followed by hippies, led to the adoption of the name “East Village” to differentiate the area, which was once lumped together with the Lower East Side.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014