Browse by...

NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.


Entries in East Village (22)


6th St Between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave

Stranded in a bar-filled wasteland between Houston and 14th Streets, this block has plenty of character, but it seems that decades of relentless commercialization has left it soulless. There's a lot of positive things to be said for the quirkier features here, but at the end of the day you're still looking at a stretch of road that's utterly overrun by bar-hoppers once the weekend comes – demonstrated by those ubiquitous "Please respect our neighbors" signs.

A series of indistinguishable Indian restaurants sit on the south side of the street, which as a fan of curry both excites and confuses me. Is there really so much demand in the neighborhood to warrant three seemingly identical locations? 

I'm a fan of much of the architecture around here, though many of the buildings don't seem too well-cared-for. Some newer apartments can be found, though as to be expected they don't bring much to the table as far as striking physicality goes.



5th St Between Bowery and 2nd Ave

Up until recently this street was just another in a series of nondescript blocks which feed from the Bowery deeper into the East Village. That, however, all changed when the 21-Story Cooper Square Hotel barged its way into the neighborhood. Seeming more at-home in iRobot than the East Village the hotel features a design which, unfortunately, looks like a sore thumb in this location (It's very thumb-like in shape). While the new Cooper Union building two blocks to the north seems to echo this architectural mentality, this one just doesn't feel as good.

The hotel seems unsure of its position in the neighborhood. On one hand, it features a large blank wall which has a rotating body of street art (currently Shepard Fairey)- which at least pays homage to the area's roots. However, the building seems to want to act as an oasis from the street - the very street it appeared to be celebrating. The arrangement of the hotel bar's patio is such that people living in the century-old apartment buildings behind it are now assuming the role of zoo animals: Put on display for the upper-class patrons of the Glass Thumb to gawk at. Perhaps worse than the gawking (they have blinds, dontcha know) is apparently the noise. After opening last summer a war of words, music and dirty laundry began - ending in no resolution as the weather began to chill.

The rest of the block is as one would expect: Quaint, chock-full of trees, and just a teeny bit dirty...but not too much. You can feel the community all around you. By the time you exit onto 2nd Avenue, it's as-if you just walked out of some secret neighborhood no one knows about. I'm rather certain that of the thousands of people who traverse this street every weekend as they make their way from the dive bars on 2nd Ave to the Cooper Square patio from hell, hardly any of them notice the humanity all around.


Tompkins Square Park

This week I decided to take advantage of Saturday's perfect weather and dedicate all the posts to a few choice Manhattan parks. Enjoy!

With a rich history of riots and general disorder, the Tompkins Square Park of today stands in stark contrast to its previous incarnations. Really it's only been the last decade or two that the 10-acre plot has enjoyed a relatively calm existence. Like many other parks in the city, Tompkins was affected by the economic turmoil which engulfed New York in the 70's, causing it to go into a prototypical downfall. The seediness of Alphabet City at the time only aided in Tompkins' bad image.

Though the park saw plenty of conflicts throughout the past 150 years, the most recent took place in 1988. In an attempt to remove drug dealers and vagrants, police descended upon the park – however due to a mixture of bad communication and a ridiculous number of homeless people the entire situation devolved very quickly. 

The park as we know it today is, of course, a result of Robert Moses's grand scheme to redesign the entire metropolitan area. Featuring playgrounds, various game courts, plenty of open grass space and walkways all the way around the perimeter the park is very friendly to activities of all sorts.

It's a formidable feature of the neighborhood; one you'll find hard to avoid regardless of where in Alphabet City you find yourself walking around. Looking down from above, the park is literally in the center of everything – even lining up with the 14th Street loop up in Stuyvesant Town.

Perhaps the biggest issue troubling the park today is the sheer influx of people. No longer a (major) harbor for creeps and meth heads, gentrification has made it a family-friendly place where kids run and scream as fast and as loud as they can. In many ways, Tomkins Square Park is indiscernible from any other neighborhood's safe, clean, and utterly plagued by sameness.



2nd St Between Ave A and 1st Ave

Really just a stretch that moonlights as a glorified parking lot, this first part of 2nd street after exiting Alphabet City has little to offer. Being extra wide the block is unique with its diagnol parking arrangemet - something you'll rarely see in the space-deprived lower east side.

Besides endless cars, you'll also find some religious institutions lining the southern half of the street. Even more parking lots seperate the buildings allowing glimpses of Houston St. Near the ends of the block there are a few hookah bars, but nothing of particular note.


Ave B Between 5th St and 3rd St

Alphabet City feels like no other part of Manhattan. Sure, it shares many of the same features, there aren't any individual elements that necessarily make it stand out – but there's a undeniable feeling. Once you pass Avenue A and especially Tompkins Square Park it's like a different world. Perhaps it's the overall lack of chain retail stores or restaurants...though that's becoming less true by the year. Perhaps it's the artist-fed culture and the fact that the "melting pot" mentality is still alive-and-well in this part of Manhattan. Or perhaps it's the disconnect the avenues have from the rest of the grid. Whatever it is, this truly is a city within a city.

This particular block is dominated by part of The Earth School (P.S. 364) - which feels very much out-of-place. The majority of the surrounding buildings are low-rise apartments with local stores filling the ground floor. Of course the highlight of this area are always the quirky details strewn about...and this block doesn't disappoint. On the corner of 4th Street, a seemingly simple bodega is topped off with a colorful paint job which looks simultaneously out-of-control and restrained.


11th St Between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave

In many ways, 11th Street is a lot like any other street you'd find down here in the village. A combination of quirky stores and restaurants sharing the space with a school and apartments – both old and new. The St.Marks Church is an easy landmark to spot from the western side of the block, but unless you count Atomic Wings, the same can't be said for the eastern intersection.

The middle of the block is wide open and airy thanks to the playground/open yard connected to the Tass Elementary School. Across from this yard a series of boutiques struggle to gain your attention with garish signs and bright colors.