Lady Gaga’s Greenwich Village

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is a born and raised New Yorker. While she spent most of her early years growing up on the Upper West Side, she owes some of her breakout career moments to Greenwich Village.

Lady Gaga performs for a crowd during the Stonewall50 concert in New York, June 28, 2019.

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How Greenwich Village and the East Village Launched the 19th Century Hebrew Free School Movement

Nineteenth-century Jewish immigrant life in New York is well-documented, when massive waves of Jews, first from Germany and then from Eastern Europe, began to flood into the city.  This made New York the largest Jewish city by population in the world, which it remains to this day.  Like all immigrant stories, the Jewish community had to work hard to balance the pulls toward assimilation with their work to keep their culture alive. 


The Jewish Lower East Side. Image from the Library of Congress

An important but rarely told facet of that story is the history of Hebrew Free Schools. A movement which began in Philadelphia in 1848, it did not spread to New York until 1864, when Christian missionaries began a concerted effort to seek to convert Jewish immigrant children in New York to Christianity under the guise of offering free Hebrew education. The Jews of New York pushed back, and that movement was lead by congregations located in Greenwich Village and today’s East Village.

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“Our Village is Star in an Uptown Exhibit” — September 26, 1990

Village Preservation has been, and continues to be, the guardian of many different archives. Still, our repository continues growing, and our newest online resource, the Preservation History Archive, is somewhat distinct from all the rest. Instead of relaying the broad history of our neighborhood, the Preservation History Archive holds original documents on the history of preservation advocacy by our predecessors, compatriots, and ourselves. Looking through it, one can see the ways past efforts have laid the groundwork for recent progress we have made. One example is the exhibit we opened on September 26th, 1990, “Greenwich Village on the Water’s Edge: The Survival of a Neighborhood,” part of our early work to seek protections for and preservation of the Far West Village.

Kees Stahl adjusting his model of the waterfront between Hudson Street and West 14th Street. Photo courtesy of The New York Observer, September 24th, 1990.

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Storefronts in Historic Districts — What You Need to Know

Stores and commercial spaces provide important services, products, jobs, and character to our neighborhoods and communities. Small businesses in landmarked buildings and historic districts have many wonderful assets, while also having NYC Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) rules to follow. The LPC recently released guidelines to help business owners get approval for changes and better understand the regulations.  That is why Village Preservation and some of our friends recently held a well-attended and informative presentation by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (watch the video here and see pictures here).


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Rooftop Farms in Our Neighborhoods: It is Officially “A Movement”

We at Village Preservation keep tabs on all different types of preservation, including environmental sustainability.  So we’ve been really interested to learn about the expanding opportunities in our neighborhoods for urban agriculture and beekeeping.

Urban agriculture is becoming a big thing in New York City. If you are interested, start looking up! Rooftop farms are a beautiful, creative solution to local farming in an otherwise inhospitable environment. With ground space at a premium in our fair burgh, New York has positioned itself as a ripe hotbed for the implementation of the agricultural trend. From the East Village to the West Village, from fancy buildings to squats, from schools to restaurants, the urban rooftop farming movement is taking hold, and New Yorkers are reaping the benefits in so many ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hilly Kristal’s Long Road to the Bowery and Rock and Roll Legend

Hillel (Hilly) Kristal, founder of legendary rock club CBGB, was born on September 23, 1931 in New York City. His early life, well into adulthood, might not have given any hint of the legendary status he would earn in the Pantheon of rock and roll, and particularly as one of the prime forces behind the punk revolution of the 1970s.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants Bertha and Shamai, Kristal grew up in Hightstown, New Jersey, where he studied music from a young age. He later attended the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia and joined the Marines. He then moved back to New York City where he was a singer in the men’s choral group at Radio City Music Hall. From there, he become the manager of the Village Vanguard, where he booked artists including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. In the mid-1960s he co-founded the Rheingold Central Park Music Festival and opened Hilly’s, a restaurant and bar at 62 West 9th Street. In 1969, he headed to the Bowery.

Hilly Kristal in front of his venue CBGB’s in 1991

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‘Friends’: Greenwich Village Fantasy vs. Reality

On September 22, 1994, the TV show ‘Friends’ premiered on NBC.  Airing ten seasons, it was consistently one of the most popular shows on television, and after decades of syndication, one of the most popular in history.  And for a generation of young twenty- (and eventually thirty-) somethings, it shaped their views of, and in many ways reflected their experience of, what their lives were supposed to be like.

While the show was shot in Burbank, California, almost all it was supposed to take place in Greenwich Village, where the apartments of all of its main characters were located.  Thus it also shaped a generation’s views of what living in Greenwich Village, even if your job was a joke and you were broke, was like.

So ahead we take a look at the places where Ross, Rachel , Phoebe, Joey, Monica and Chandler were supposed to have lived, and how the TV world Friends created did (and didn’t) line up with reality. Read the rest of this entry »

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Former Schools of Greenwich Village and the East Village

Now that school is back in session and summer weather is having its last hurrahs, we’re all either living by the bell or remembering the days when we did.  So many schools in our neighborhoods have come and gone over the decades, while others have stuck around. While all these schools served the function of educating young people, many also delight passersby with their architecture.  So while there are many beautiful schools out there, this post is dedicated to the forgotten ones that went out of session and never went back in — school buildings that remain, but have been put to new and different uses.  

Here are just a few:

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The Changing Face of Astor Place and Cooper Square

As we do every month, we just added some new historic images to the Village Preservation historic image archive from the latest Landmarks Permit Applications which we have reviewed. This round had an intriguing one of Astor Place/Cooper Square from 1925 which shows how many of the striking historic buildings remain from that time (largely thanks to landmark designation), and one that has changed quite a bit.

Cooper Square looking north from East 7th Street, 1925. From the Landmark permit application for 770 Broadway.

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A Real Tour of Greenwich Village for ‘Friends’ Fans

This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District.  Check out our year-long activities and celebrations at

The television sitcom Friends, which premiered on September 22, 1994, is celebrating its 25th anniversary! The show presented a group of young twenty-somethings finding their way in New York City. The massive success of the show attracts thousands of fans to Greenwich Village to see a glimpse of the buildings and places depicted their favorite show. The spot in Greenwich Village most associated with Friends, and where crowds of tourists can be seen taking pictures all hours of every day, is the apartment building at 90 Bedford Street at the corner of Grove Street in the middle of the Greenwich Village Historic District, where each of the ‘Friends’ were supposed to have, at one time or another, lived.

While the crowds of tourists from across the globe gather across from 90 Bedford Street to take selfies with what they envision as the place where the Friends made their home (the program uses an exterior shot of the building, but of course the show was  actually shot 3,000 miles away on a soundstage in Burbank, Ca.), sometimes they seem to miss or ignore the actual history within footsteps and sight of the spot they’re standing.  So for those troops of tourists, we want to offer you a tour of some of the true stars of Greenwich Village, with these buildings on our “If-you’re-going-to-look-at-the-‘Friends’-building,-why-not-check-out-these-real-historic-sites-while-you’re-at-it” tour.

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