The neighborhood was once considered part of the Lower East Side, but in the 1960's began to develop its own culture as the "East Village" when scores of artists and hippies began to move into the area, attracted by the base of Beatniks that had lived there since the 1950s. It has been the site of counterculture, protests and riots. The neighborhood is known as the birthplace and historical home of many artistic movements, including punk rock and the Nuyorican literary movement.
It is still known for a diverse community, vibrant nightlife and artistic sensibility, although in recent decades gentrification has changed the character of the neighborhood and of its residents.
Until the mid-1960s, this area was simply the northern part of the Lower East Side, with a similar culture of immigrant, working class life. In the 1950s the migration of Beatniks into the neighborhood later attracted hippies, musicians and artists well into 1960s. The area was dubbed the "East Village", to dissociate it from the image of slums evoked by the Lower East Side. According to the New York Times, a 1964 guide called, "Earl Wilson's New York," wrote that "artists, poets and promoters of coffeehouses from Greenwich Village are trying to remelt the neighborhood under the high-sounding name of 'East Village.'"
Newcomers and real estate brokers popularized the East Village name, and the term was adopted by the popular media by the mid-1960s. In 1966 a psychedelic weekly newspaper, The East Village Other, appeared and The New York Times declared that the neighborhood "had come to be known" as the East Village in the June 5, 1967 edition.
On March 8, 1968 Bill Graham opened the Fillmore East in a Yiddish Theatre on 2nd Avenue. The venue quickly became known as "The Church of Rock and Roll," with two-show concerts several nights a week. While booking many of the same bands that had played the Electric Circus, Graham particularly used the venue - and its West Coast counterpart, to establish new British bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream (band), and Led Zeppelin. It too closed in 1971.
CBGB, the nightclub considered by some to be the birthplace of punk music, was located in the neighborhood, as was the early punk standby A7. No Wave and New York hardcore also emerged in the area’s clubs. Among the many important bands and singers who got their start at these clubs and other venues in downtown New York were: the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Arto Lindsay, the Ramones, Blondie, Madonna, Talking Heads, the Plasmatics, Glenn Danzig, Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys, Anthrax, and The Strokes. From 1983 - 1993, much of the more radical audio work was preserved as part of the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine recording project, which was based in the nearby Lower East Side.
Over the last 100 years, the East Village/Lower East Side neighborhood has been considered one of the strongest contributors to American arts and culture in New York. During the great wave of immigration (Germans, Ukrainians, Polish) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, countless families found their new homes in this area.
The East Village has been the birthplace of cultural icons and movements from the American gangster to the Warhol Superstars, folk music to punk rock, anti-folk to hip-hop, advanced education to organized activism, experimental theater to the Beat Generation.
During the 1980s the East Village art gallery scene helped to galvanize a new post-modern art in America; showing such artists as Kiki Smith, Peter Halley, Keith Haring, Stephen Lack, Greer Lankton, Joseph Nechvatal, Tom Otterness, Nan Goldin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Wojnarowicz and Jeff Koons.
The musical Rent chronicled a period in the neighborhood's history that is bygone. It opened at the New York Theater Workshop in February 1996. It described a New York City devastated by the AIDS epidemic, drugs and high crime, and followed several characters in the backdrop of their effort to make livings as artists.
The East Village's performance and art scene has declined since its hey-day of the 1970s and 1980s. One club that had opened to try to resurrect the neighborhood's past artistic prominence was Mo Pitkins' House of Satisfaction, part-owned by Jimmy Fallon of Saturday Night Live. It closed its doors in 2007, and was seen by many as another sign of the continued decline of the East Village performance and art scene, which has mostly moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rapture Cafe also shut down in April 2008, and the neighborhood lost an important performance space and gathering ground for the gay community. There are still some performance spaces, such as Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A, where downtown acts find space to exhibit their talent, and the poetry clubs.
Alphabet City comprises nearly two-thirds of the East Village. It also once was the archetype of a dangerous New York City neighborhood. It's turn-around was cause for The New York Times to observe in 2005 that Alphabet City went "from a drug-infested no man's land to the epicenter of downtown cool." Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names. It is bordered by Houston Street to the south and 23rd Street to the north where Avenue C ends. Some famous landmarks include Tompkins Square Park, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the Stuyvesant Town private residential community.
Loisaida is a term derived from the Latino (and especially Nuyorican) pronunciation of "Lower East Side", a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. The term was originally coined by poet/activist, Bittman "Bimbo" Rivas in his 1974 poem "Loisaida". Loisaida Avenue is now an alternative name for Avenue C in the Alphabet City neighborhood of New York City, whose population has largely been Hispanic (mainly Nuyorican) since the late 1960s.
The Bowery, formerly home to CBGB (a store selling merchandise of the famous venue has opened on St. Mark's Place), once was known as a place overrun with homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers and bars. The phrase "On The Bowery", which has since fallen into disuse, once was a generic way to say a person was down-and-out.
''The Bow’ry, The Bow’ry!The Bowery has since become mostly become a boulevard of brand-new luxury condominiums, but it is also home to the Amato Opera and the Bowery Poetry Club, which has lent considerably to keeping the neighborhood's reputation as still a place for artistic pursuit. Artists Amiri Baraka and Taylor Mead hold regular readings and performances in the space.
They say such things,
and they do strange things
on the Bow’ry
—From the musical A Trip to Chinatown, 1891
The redevelopment of the avenue from flophouses to luxury condominiums has met with resistance from long-term residents, who agree the neighborhood has improved, but that its unique, gritty character is also disappearing.
Tompkins Square Park is a 10.5 acre (42,000 m²) public park in the Alphabet City section of the East Village neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It is square in shape, and is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A. St. Marks Place abuts the park to the west.
The park is 57 acres that runs along the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive from Montgomery Street to East 12th Street. It was designed in the 1930s by Robert Moses, who wanted to ensure there was parkland on the Lower East Side.
The cemetery is actually two, which sit on 2nd Street between The Bowery and 2nd Avenue. They are open the fourth Sunday of every month. The first and more prominent is the City cemetery, which is second oldest non-sectarian cemetery in New York City. It sits next to the the oldest public cemetery in New York City not affiliated with any religion, the "New York Marble Cemetery." The cemetery was opened in 1831 and at one point contained ex-U.S. President James Monroe.
Other than geography, the East Village's most notable commonalities with Greenwich Village are a colorful history, vibrant social and cultural outlets, and street names that often diverge from the norm.
The Bowery is a north-south avenue which also lends its name to the somewhat overlapping neighborhood of the Bowery; St. Mark's Place, a crosstown street well-known for counterculture businesses; and Astor Place/Cooper Square, home of the Public Theater and the Cooper Union. Nearby universities like New York University (NYU) and The New School have dormitories in the neighborhood.
On October 9, 1966, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, held the first recorded outdoor chanting session of the Hare Krishna mantra outside of the Indian subcontinent at Tompkins Square Park. This is considered the founding of the Hare Krishna religion in the United States, and the tree is a special religious site for Krishna adherents. Poet Allen Ginsberg, a long-time East Village resident, attended the ceremony.
The neighborhood's Puerto Rican population is heavily Roman Catholic. Recently redevelopment spurred by both development of the neighborhood and New York University's expansion have caused several churches to be closed, including St. Mary's Help of Christians on East 10th Street, and St. Ann's. There has recently been much controversy over St. Brigid's, the historical parish on Tompkins Square Park.
St. Ann's Church, a rusticated-stone structure with a Romanesque tower that dated to 1847 was destroyed by the University to make way for a monolithic 26-story, 700 bed dormitory for students. Amongst brownstones and historic buildings, the school has built many of these large dorms and this one in particular is now the tallest structure in the area. "There are larger changes going on here," said Lynne Brown, vice president of university relations and public affairs. "I fear this tendency to blame any trend residents don't like happening at the doorstep of NYU," said Brown, mentioning that the university has been one of the longest inhabitants of the East Village. But Nancy Cosie, a 20 year resident and former St. Ann's parishioner, does not buy that argument. "Enough is enough," Cosie exclaimed to The Village Voice, "This is not a campus. This is a neighborhood, and this is my home." NYU's destruction or purchasing of many historic buildings (such as the Peter Cooper post office) have made it symbolic of change that many long-time residents fear is destroying what made the neighborhood interesting and attractive. "I live on Avenue B and 9th Street," an NYU student said. "I know I'm part of the problem - gentrification that is. But where am I supposed to live?"
NYU has often been at odds with residents of both the East and West Villages, with legendary urban preservationist Jane Jacobs battling the school in the 1960s. "She spoke of how universities and hospitals often had a special kind of hubris reflected in the fact that they often thought it was OK to destroy a neighborhood to suit their needs,” said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.