The East Village has a ring to it. It just sounds cool. Maybe it has to do with “Village.” It sounds perplexingly foreign in a large city like New York. It looks cool too. Wonderfully quirky and weird. Strange eateries and restaurants. Independent shops. It’s a glimpse of what people think of when they think of New York.
I spend a lot of time in the East Village. At least five days a week I walk from my apartment, down 3rd Avenue to Astor Place before heading over to the main consortium of NYU buildings. Somewhere between 14th Street and Astor I cross into the East Village.
The worst part about grad school, and really any schooling done in any city, is that you never get a chance to see where you’re living. During school I spend countless hours huddled away in class, in the library, or in my apartment studying. The little bits of New York I see are just that, little bits. Chances for exploring are put on hold, stamped on a list of “must see attractions” that no one ever has a time to enjoy until the final test is taken or the final paper written. Aside from a brief adventure, on an abnormally warm January afternoon, I still haven’t really seen the East Village. I’ve travelled down the sometimes shady looking, but actually safe avenues. I’ve walked along some of the tree lined streets. I’ve stared salivating in the windows of boutiques I can’t afford. But, the most I’ve ever bought in the East Village is a cup of coffee.
What I can say definitively, is the mix of people is wonderful. I don’t have time to stop and think about whether someone is rich or poor, and unless they’re dressed in designer clothes or sitting slumped against a wall with a clinking paper coffee cup, I would never know. They’re black and white, Hispanic and Asian. Young and Old. Dog owners and non-dog owners. They’re different. It’s a microcosmic speck of what attracts so many people to New York in the first place. The East Village has managed to integrated rough around the edges with quaint and cute in a way no other place has seemed to do—at least not as well.
If I have one goal this summer (and let’s be honest I have a whole list of goals) it’s to actually explore the East Village. To actually eat somewhere. To walk into a boutique. To do more than take a photograph of a street. To actually live and experience a place I have spent so much time walking through.