I am not a native New Yorker, but as a long-time (now former) resident of the South Village, I had the distinct privilege of getting to know many people who had actually spent their entire lives there. Some say that Greenwich Village, unlike most other New York City neighborhoods, really is like a little village in some ways. It seems that in the Village, it’s just easier to get to know your neighbors or have a first-name relationship with the local merchants.
Village Gate, Bleecker Street (photo courtesy of Sharon d’Lugoff)
Let me take you back, way, way back, to the 1980’s. The city was in a kind of crisis mode. It seemed that there was at least one homeless person living on every block. Crime was rampant. Most everyone I knew had a story about being mugged or burglarized or both. You could own a bicycle, but not for long. If you knew the right people, you could buy a stolen bicycle cheap. A subway token (a subway what?) cost 75¢. The Yankees weren’t so good, but the Mets were gaining momentum. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment was listed in the $700 – $800 range. If you were looking for an apartment, your best bet was to get the Village Voice late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning and scour the classified ads. After circling the possibilities, you would set out to the addresses for the open house, where there were already dozens of people waiting. Then you would enter single file, do a “once-through” and leave thinking, “What a dump.”
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