Greenwich Village

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Washington Square Park, in the heart of Greenwich Village. Photo by Matthew Jesuele

Greenwich Village (pronounced /ˌgrɛnɪtʃ ˈvɪlɪdʒ/), often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential area on the lower west side of southern Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families. Greenwich Village, however, was known in the late 19th – earlier to mid 20th centuries as the bohemian capital and the birthplace of the Beat Movement. Ironically, what provided the initial attractive character of the community eventually contributed to its gentrification and commercialization.[1][2]

The Village was seemingly named after Greenwich, London, England. However, it was called Noortwijck ("Noort" or "North" because of its location north of the original settlement on Manhattan Island) or Groenwijck by the Dutch founders before the British takeover.[citation needed]


[edit] Location

Street in Greenwich Village

The neighborhood is bounded by Broadway on the east, the Hudson River on the west, Houston Street on the south, and 14th Street on the north. The neighborhoods surrounding it are the East Village to the east, SoHo to the south, and Chelsea to the north. The East Village was formerly considered part of the Lower East Side and never associated with Greenwich Village.[3] The West Village is the part of Greenwich Village west of 7th Avenue, though Realtors say the dividing line is 6th Avenue.[who?]

Greenwich Village was better known as Washington Square – based on the major landmark Washington Square Park[4] or Empire Ward[5] in the 19th century.

Encyclopedia Britannica's 1956 article on "New York (City)" (subheading "Greenwich Village") states that the southern border of the Village is Spring Street, reflecting an earlier understanding. The newer district of SoHo has since encroached on the Village's historic border.

[edit] Grid plan

The intersection of West 4th and West 12th Streets

As Greenwich Village was once a rural hamlet, to the North of the earliest European settlement on Manhattan Island, its street layout is more haphazard than the grid pattern of the 19th-century grid plan (based on the Commissioners' Plan of 1811). Greenwich Village was allowed to keep its street pattern in areas west of Greenwich Lane (now Greenwich Avenue) and Sixth Avenue that were already built up when the plan was implemented, which has resulted in a neighborhood whose streets are dramatically different, in layout, from the ordered structure of newer parts of town. Many of the neighborhood's streets are narrow and some curve at odd angles. Additionally, unlike most of Manhattan above Houston Street, streets in the Village typically are named rather than numbered. While some of the formerly named streets (including Factory, Herring and Amity Streets) are now numbered, even they do not always conform to the usual grid pattern when they enter the neighborhood. For example, West 4th Street, which runs east-west outside of the Village, turns and runs north, crossing West 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Streets.

A large section of Greenwich Village, made up of more than 50 northern and western blocks in the area up to 14th Street, is considered part of a Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The District's convoluted borders run no farther south than 4th Street or St. Luke's Place, and no farther east than Washington Square East or University Place. [6] Redevelopment in that area is severely restricted, and developers must preserve the main facade and aesthetics of the buildings even during renovation.

Most parts of Greenwich Village comprise mid-rise apartments, 19th-century row houses and the occasional one-family walk-up, a sharp contrast to the hi-rise landscape in Mid- and Downtown Manhattan, due to the lack of shallow bedrock.

[edit] History

Map of old Greenwich Village. A section of Bernard Ratzer's map of New York and its suburbs, made circa 1766 for Henry Moore, Royal Governor of New York, when Greenwich was more than two miles from the city.

Greenwich Village is located on what was once marshland. In the 16th century Native Americans referred to it as Sapokanikan ("tobacco field"). The land was cleared and turned into pasture by Dutch and freed African settlers in the 1630s, who named their settlement Noortwyck. The English conquered the Dutch settlement of New Netherland in 1664 and Greenwich Village developed as a hamlet separate from the larger (and fast-growing) New York City to the south. It officially became a village in 1712 and is first referred to as Grin'wich in 1713 Common Council records. In 1822, a yellow fever epidemic in New York encouraged residents to flee to the healthier air of Greenwich Village, and afterwards many stayed.

Greenwich Village is generally known as an important landmark on the map of bohemian culture. The neighborhood is known for its colorful, artistic residents and the alternative culture they propagate. Due in part to the progressive attitudes of many of its residents, the Village has traditionally been a focal point of new movements and ideas, whether political, artistic, or cultural. This tradition as an enclave of avant-garde and alternative culture was established by the beginning of the 20th century when small presses, art galleries, and experimental theater thrived.

In 1914, in one of the many Manhattan properties Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the Whitney Studio Club at 8 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village as a facility where young artists could exhibit their works. The place would evolve to become her greatest legacy, the Whitney Museum of American Art, on the site of today's New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. The Whitney was founded in 1931, as an answer to the then newly founded (1928) Museum of Modern Art's collection of mostly European modernism and its neglect of American Art. Gertrude Whitney decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works.[7]

Cherry Lane Theatre is also located in Greenwich Village

In 1924 the Cherry Lane Theatre was established. Located at 38 Commerce Street it is New York City's oldest continuously running off-Broadway theater. A landmark in Greenwich Village’s cultural landscape, it was built as a farm silo in 1817, and also served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory before Edna St. Vincent Millay and other members of the Provincetown Players converted the structure into a theatre they christened the Cherry Lane Playhouse, which opened on March 24, 1924, with the play The Man Who Ate the Popomack. During the 1940s The Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, and the Downtown Theater movement all took root there, and it developed a reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights and emerging voices could showcase their work.

In 1936 the renowned Abstract Expressionist artist and teacher Hans Hofmann moved his art school from E. 57th Street to 52 West 9th Street. In 1938 Hofmann moved again to a more permanent home at 52 West 8th Street. The school remained active until 1958 when Hofmann retired from teaching.[8]

During the golden age of bohemianism, Greenwich Village became famous for such eccentrics as Joe Gould (profiled at length by Joseph Mitchell) and Maxwell Bodenheim, the dancer Isadora Duncan, as well as greats on the order of Eugene O'Neill. Political rebellion also made its home here, whether serious (John Reed) or frivolous (Marcel Duchamp and friends set off balloons from atop Washington Square arch, proclaiming the founding of "The Independent Republic of Greenwich Village"). In Christmas 1949, The Weavers played at the Village Vanguard.

The Village again became important to the bohemian scene during the 1950s, when the Beat Generation focused their energies there. Fleeing from what they saw as oppressive social conformity, a loose collection of writers, poets, artists, and students (later known as the Beats) and the Beatniks, moved to Greenwich Village, and to North Beach in San Francisco; in many ways creating the east coast-west coast predecessor to the Haight-Ashbury-East Village hippie scene of the next decade. The Village (and surrounding New York City) would later play central roles in the writings of, among others, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Dylan Thomas, who collapsed while drinking at the White Horse Tavern on November 5, 1953.

Off-Off-Broadway began in Greenwich Village in 1958 as a reaction to Off-Broadway, and a "complete rejection of commercial theatre".[9] Among the first venues for what would soon be called "Off-Off-Broadway" (a term supposedly coined by critic Jerry Tallmer of the Village Voice) were coffeehouses in Greenwich Village, particularly the Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street, operated by the eccentric Joe Cino, who early on took a liking to actors and playwrights and agreed to let them stage plays there without bothering to read the plays first, or to even find out much about the content. Also integral to the rise of Off-Off-Broadway were Ellen Stewart at La MaMa, and Al Carmines at the Judson Poets' Theater, located at Judson Memorial Church.

Greenwich Village played a major role in the development of the folk music scene of the 1960s. Three of the four members of The Mamas and the Papas met there. Guitarist and folk singer Dave Van Ronk lived there for many years. Village resident Bob Dylan was one of the foremost popular songwriters in the country, and often developments in New York City would influence the simultaneously occurring folk rock movement in San Francisco, and vice versa. Dozens of other cultural and popular icons got their start in the Village's nightclub, theater, and coffeehouse scene during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s, notably Barbra Streisand, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, Eric Andersen, Joan Baez, The Velvet Underground, Richie Havens, Maria Muldaur, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone. The Greenwich Village of the 1950s and 1960s was at the center of Jane Jacobs's book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which defended it and similar communities, while critiquing common urban renewal policies of the time.

Founded by New York based artist Mercedes Matter and her students the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture is an art school formed in the mid 1960s. The school officially opened September 23 1964, it is still currently active and it is housed at 8 W. 8th Street, the site of the original Whitney Museum of American Art. [10]

Greenwich Village was also home to one of the many safe houses used by the radical anti-war movement known as the Weather Underground. On March 6, 1970, however, their safehouse was destroyed when an explosive they were constructing was accidentally detonated, costing three Weathermen (Ted Gold, Terry Robbins, and Diana Oughton) their lives.

In recent days, the Village has maintained its role as a center for movements which have challenged the wider American culture: for example, its role in the gay liberation movement. It contains Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn, important landmarks, as well as the world's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, Oscar Wilde Bookshop, founded in 1967. In 2006, the Village was the scene of an assault involving seven lesbians and a straight man that sparked appreciable media attention, with strong statements both defending and attacking the parties.

See also Category:Greenwich Village

[edit] Since the 1960s

Jefferson Market Library, once a courthouse, now serves as a branch of the New York Public Library.

Currently, artists and local historians bemoan the fact that the bohemian days of Greenwich Village are long gone, because of the extraordinarily high housing costs in the neighborhood.[11][12][13][14][15][16] The artists have fled to first to SoHo then to TriBeCa and finally Williamsburg[12] and Bushwick[citation needed] in Brooklyn, Long Island City,[12] and DUMBO.[citation needed] Nevertheless, residents of Greenwich Village still possess a strong community identity and are proud of their neighborhood's unique history and fame, and its well-known liberal live-and-let-live attitudes.[15] Indeed, its cultural uniqueness and apartness are felt so strongly, and so many of its residents' lives are so locally focused, that it is sometimes said thereabouts that "upstate" New York is anywhere north of 14th Street.[citation needed]

Greenwich Village
George Segal's 1980 sculptures commemorating the gay liberation movement on Sheridan square in Greenwich Village.

Greenwich Village is now home to many celebrities, including actresses/actors Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Uma Thurman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Leontyne Price, Amy Sedaris, and Barbara Pierce Bush, the daughter of former U.S. President George W. Bush; Thurman and Bush both live on West Ninth Street.[17] Alt-country/folk musician Steve Earle moved to the neighborhood in 2005,[18] and his album Washington Square Serenade is primarily about his experiences in the Village. The Village also serves as home to Anna Wintour, the imperial editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine.

Greenwich Village includes the primary campus for New York University (NYU), The New School, and Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The Cooper Union is also located in Greenwich Village, at Astor Place, near St. Mark's Place on the border of the East Village.

The historic Washington Square Park is the center and heart of the neighborhood, but the Village has several other, smaller parks: Father Fagan, Minetta Triangle, Petrosino Square, Little Red Square, and Time Landscape. There are also city playgrounds, including Desalvio, Minetta, Thompson Street, Bleecker Street, Downing Street, Mercer Street, and William Passannante Ballfield. Perhaps the most famous, though, is "The Cage", officially known as the West 4th Street Courts. Sitting on top of the West Fourth Street–Washington Square subway station at Sixth Avenue, the courts are easily accessible to basketball and American handball players from all over New York. The Cage has become one of the most important tournament sites for the city-wide "Streetball" amateur basketball tournament.

The Village also has a bustling performing arts scene. It is still home to many Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters; for instance, Blue Man Group has taken up residence in the Astor Place Theater. The Village Vanguard and The Blue Note hosts some of the biggest names in jazz on a regular basis, while a plethora of lower profile clubs arguably keep Greenwich Village the underground jazz epicenter of New York City. Other music clubs include The Bitter End, Cafe Wha? and Lion's Den. The village also has its own orchestra aptly named the Greenwich Village Orchestra. Comedy clubs dot the Village as well, including The Boston and Comedy Cellar, where many American stand-up comedians got their start.

Each year on October 31, it is home to New York's Village Halloween Parade, a mile-long ad hoc pageant of masqueraders, mummers, drag queens, exhibitionists, drunkards, druggies, puppets and pets that draws an audience of two million from throughout the region, the largest Halloween event in the country. The delighted and high-spirited throngs include everyone from the smallest children dressed in the simplest homemade or store-bought costumes on up to adults bedecked in the most elaborate and ingenious guises and disguises that professional and amateur costume designers and makeup artists can conceive and create with a year's notice.

Several publications have offices in the Village, most notably the newsweekly The Village Voice.

[edit] In media

90 Bedford Street, Winter 2006-2007

[edit] Education

Greenwich Village residents are zoned to schools in the New York City Department of Education.

Residents are jointly zoned to two elementary schools: PS3 Melser Charrette School and PS41 Greenwich Village School. Residents are zoned to Baruch Middle School 104.

Residents must apply to New York City high schools.

[edit] Notable residents

Sullivan St. was home to Genovese crime family godfather Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. Born and raised in the Village he would spend most of his adult life there during the day. According to F.B.I. surveillance reports, after midnight, he would be driven to a townhouse at East 77th Street near Park Avenue where he actually lived.[22]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Costic, Robert S. (2004-04-29). "Is gentrification good for the poor?". Perspectives (American Jurist). Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  2. ^ Strenberg, Adam (2007-11-12), "Embers of Gentrification", New York Magazine: 5, 
  3. ^ F.Y.I., "When did the East Village become the East Village and stop being part of the Lower East Side?", Jesse McKinley, New York Times, June 1, 1995; accessed August 26, 2008.
  4. ^ "Village History". The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Retrieved on 2008-01-05. 
  5. ^ Harris, Luther S. (2003). Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-080187341-6. 
  6. ^ Landmark Maps: Historic District Maps: Manhattan
  7. ^ Berman, Avis (1990). Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art. New York: Atheneum. 
  8. ^ Hans Hofmann Estate, retrieved December 19, 2008
  9. ^ Viagas (2004, 72)
  10. ^ History of the NY Studio School, retrieved December 19, 2008
  11. ^ Roberts, Rex (2002-07-29), "When Greenwich Village was a Bohemian paradise", Insight on the News, 
  12. ^ a b c Harris, Paul (2005-08-14). "New York's heart loses its beat". Arts (Guardian Unlimited).,11711,1548962,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  13. ^ Kugelmass, Jack (November 1993), ""The Fun Is in Dressing up": The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and the Reimagining of Urban Space", Social Text 36: 138–152, doi:10.2307/466393 
  14. ^ Lydersen, Kari (1999-03-15), "SHAME OF THE CITIES: Gentrification in the New Urban America", LiP Magazine, 
  15. ^ a b Desloovere, Hesper (2007-11-15). "City Living: Greenwich Village". New York City (Newsday).,0,4295838.story. Retrieved on 2007-12-02. 
  16. ^ Fieldsteel, Patricia (2005-10-19). "Remembering a time when the Village was affordable". The Villager (New York: Community Media LLC) 75 (22). 
  17. ^ "Secure Location". New York Post. 2006-09-11. 
  18. ^ Seabrook, John (June 11, 2007). "Transplant". The New Yorker. 
  19. ^ The Angelika Film Center was said to be "up the block" from Central Perk in "The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel", the sixth season's second episode, placing the coffee house on Mercer Street or Houston.
  20. ^ This address was given "The One With All The Kissing", the fifth season's second episode.
  21. ^ Hudson Street Loft at
  22. ^ Vincent Gigante, Mafia Leader Who Feigned Insanity, Dies at 77, by Selwyn Raab, The New York Times, December 19, 2005

Greenwich Village Middle School

[edit] External links

Coordinates: 40°44′N 74°00′W / 40.733°N 74°W / 40.733; -74

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