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Greenwich Village ( ), often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York Citymarker. 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. What provided the initial attractive character of the community eventually contributed to its gentrification and commercialization.

The name of the village is Anglicized from the Dutch name Groenwijck, meaning "Pine District", into its near heterograph Greenwichmarker, a borough of London, Englandmarker.


Street in Greenwich Village
The neighborhood is bounded by Broadwaymarker 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 Villagemarker to the east, SoHomarker to the south, and Chelseamarker to the north. The East Villagemarker was formerly considered part of the Lower East Sidemarker and never associated with Greenwich Village. The West Villagemarker is the part of Greenwich Village west of 7th Avenue, though Realtors say the dividing line is 6th Avenue. The neighborhood is located in New York's 8th congressional district, New York's 25th State Senate district, New York's 66th State Assembly district, and New York City Council's 3rd district.

Greenwich Village was better known as Washington Square based on the major landmark Washington Square Parkmarker or Empire Ward 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 SoHomarker has since encroached on the Village's historic border.

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. 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.


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 Manhattanmarker 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 Artmarker, 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 Artmarker's collection of mostly European modernism and its neglect of American Artmarker. Gertrude Whitney decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works.

Cherry Lane Theatre is also located in Greenwich Village
In 1924 the Cherry Lane Theatremarker 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.

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, dancer Isadora Duncan, writer William Faulkner, and playwright 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 Franciscomarker; in many ways creating the east coast-west coast predecessor to the Haight-Ashburymarker-East Villagemarker 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, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Marianne Moore, Maya Angelou, Rod McKuen, and Dylan Thomas who collapsed while drinking at the White Horse Tavernmarker 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". 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, originally located at 321 E. 9th Street and Al Carmines at the Judson Poets' Theater, located at Judson Memorial Churchmarker on the south side of Washington Square Parkmarker.

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 & 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 Franciscomarker, 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 & Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Eric Andersen, Joan Baez, The Velvet Underground, The Kingston Trio, Richie Havens, Maria Muldaur, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, 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 Artmarker.

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 Streetmarker and the Stonewall Innmarker, important landmarks, as well as the world's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, Oscar Wilde Bookshop, founded in 1967. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center - best known as simply "The Center" - has occupied the former Food & Maritime Trades High School at 208 West 13th Street since 1984. 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.

Since the 1960s

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. The artists have fled to first to SoHomarker then to TriBeCamarker and finally Williamsburgmarker and Bushwickmarker in Brooklynmarker, Long Island City, and DUMBO. 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.

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. Alt-country/folk musician Steve Earle moved to the neighborhood in 2005, and his album Washington Square Serenade is primarily about his experiences in the Village. The Village also serves as home to Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine as well as Calvin Trillin, a feature writer for The New Yorker magazine.

Greenwich Village includes the primary campus for New York Universitymarker (NYU), The New School, and Yeshiva Universitymarker's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Parsons The New School for Designmarker, a division of The New School, is located at 66 Fifth Avenue on 13th Street in the newly renovated, award winning design of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. The Cooper Unionmarker is also located in Greenwich Village, at Astor Placemarker, near St. Mark's Place on the border of the East Villagemarker. Pratt Institutemarker established its latest Manhattan campus in an adaptively reused Brunner & Tryon designed loft building on 14th Street just east of Seventh Avenue,

The historic Washington Square Parkmarker 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 Squaremarker 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 Gatemarker, the Village Vanguard and The Blue Note hosted some of the biggest names in jazz on a regular basis. Other music clubs included The Bitter Endmarker, Cafe Au Go Gomarker, Cafe Wha?marker The Gaslight Cafe, and Lion's Denmarker. 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 Cellarmarker, where many American stand-up comedians got their start.

Each year on October 31, it is home to New York's Village Halloween Parade, the largest Halloween event in the country, drawing an audience of two million from throughout the region.

Several publications have offices in the Village, most notably the citywide newsweekly The Village Voice, and the monthly magazines Fortune and American Heritage. The National Audobon Societymarker, having relocated its national headquarters from a mansion in Carnegie Hillmarker to a restored and very green, former industrial building in NoHo, relocated to smaller but even greener LEED certified digs at 225 Varick Street, a short ways down Houston Street from the Film Forum.


Historically, local residents and preservation groups, including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), have been concerned about development in the Village and have fought to preserve the architectural and historic integrity of the neighborhood. In the 1960s, Margot Gayle led a group of citizens to preserve the Jefferson Market Courthousemarker (later reused as Jefferson Market Library) while other citizen groups fought to keep traffic out of Washington Square Parkmarker and Jane Jacobs, using the Village as an example of a vibrant urban community, advocated to keep it that way.

Since then, preservation has been a part of the Village ethos. Preservation success stories abound in the neighborhood, which was landmarked in 1969 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Victories for preservationists, oftentimes spearheaded by GVSHP, include the preservation of the Greenwich Village waterfront and Meatpacking Districtmarker; the inclusion of the Far West Villagemarker in the Greenwich Village Historic District; the creation of the Weehawken Street Historic District; and the downzoning of the Far West Village. Additionally, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission began the process of landmarking the South Village in June 2009.

More recent and on-going preservation issues in the Village include: NYUmarker’s expansion into the neighborhood; St. Vincent’s Hospital’s rebuilding plans; overdevelopment in the Far West Village; and threats to local theaters, including the Provincetown Playhouse, the Yiddish Art Theater, and the Variety Theater.

In media

90 Bedford Street, Winter 2006-2007


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.

Greenwich Village also houses two major universities - The New School and New York Universitymarker, as well as Cooper Unionmarker, which is one of the most selective art schools in the world.

Notable residents

Sullivan St. was home to Genovese crime family boss 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. Popularly known as the "Oddfather," Gigante allegedly feigned senility by walking around the area in a bathrobe, in the hopes of eventually entering an insanity plea.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, former judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, later a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and current member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

See also

Notes and references

External links

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