Greenwich Village has undergone extensive gentrification and commercialization; the four ZIP codes that constitute the Village – 10011, 10012, 10003, and 10014 – were all ranked among the ten most expensive in the United States by median housing price in 2014, according to Forbes, with residential property sale prices in the West Village neighborhood typically exceeding US$2,100 per square foot ($23,000/m2) in 2017.
Into the early 20th century, Greenwich Village was distinguished from the upper-class neighborhood of Washington Square – based on the major landmark Washington Square Park or Empire Ward in the 19th century.
Encyclopædia 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 SoHo has since encroached on this border.
The intersection of West 4th and West 12th Streets
Street signs at intersection of West 10th and West 4th Streets
As Greenwich Village was once a rural, isolated hamlet to the north of the 17th century European settlement on Manhattan Island, its street layout is more organic than the planned grid pattern of the 19th century grid plan (based on the Commissioners' Plan of 1811). Greenwich Village was allowed to keep the 18th century street pattern of what is now called the West Village: areas that were already built up when the plan was implemented, west of what is now Greenwich Avenue and Sixth Avenue, resulted in a neighborhood whose streets are dramatically different, in layout, from the ordered structure of the newer parts of Manhattan.
Many of the neighborhood's streets are narrow and some curve at odd angles. This is generally regarded as adding to both the historic character and charm of the neighborhood. In addition, as the meandering Greenwich Street used to be on the Hudson River shoreline, much of the neighborhood west of Greenwich Street is on landfill, but still follows the older street grid. When Sixth and Seventh Avenues were built in the early 20th century, they were built diagonally to the existing street plan, and many older, smaller streets had to be demolished.
Unlike the streets of 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, they still do not always conform to the usual grid pattern when they enter the neighborhood. For example, West 4th Street runs east-west across most of Manhattan, but runs north-south in Greenwich Village, causing it to intersect with West 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets before ending at West 13th Street.
A large section of Greenwich Village, made up of more than 50 northern and western blocks in the area up to 14th Street, is part of a Historic District established 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 façade and aesthetics of the buildings during renovation.
Most of the buildings of Greenwich Village are mid-rise apartments, 19th century row houses, and the occasional one-family walk-up, a sharp contrast to the high-rise landscape in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.
Map of old Greenwich Village. A section of Bernard Ratzer's map of New York and its suburbs, made ca. 1766 for Henry Moore, Royal Governor of New York, when Greenwich was more than two miles (3 km) from the city.
In the 16th century, Native Americans referred to its farthest northwest corner, by the cove on the Hudson River at present-day Gansevoort Street, 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 ("North district", equivalent to Northwich/Northwick). In the 1630s, Governor Wouter van Twiller farmed tobacco on 200 acres (0.81 km2) here at his "Farm in the Woods". The English conquered the Dutch settlement of New Netherland in 1664, and Greenwich Village developed as a hamlet separate from the larger New York City to the south on land that would eventually become the Financial District. In 1644, the eleven Dutch African settlers were freed after the first black legal protest in America.[b] All received parcels of land what is now Greenwich Village.
The earliest known reference to the village's name as "Greenwich" dates back to 1696, in the will of Yellis Mandeville of Greenwich; however, the village was not mentioned in the city records until 1713.Sir Peter Warren began accumulating land in 1731 and built a frame house capacious enough to hold a sitting of the Assembly when smallpox rendered the city dangerous in 1739. His house, which survived until the Civil War era, overlooked the North River from a bluff; its site on the block bounded by Perry and Charles Streets, Bleecker and West 4th Streets, can still be recognized by its mid-19th century rowhouses inserted into a neighborhood still retaining many houses of the 1830–37 boom.
From 1797 until 1829, the bucolic village of Greenwich was the location of New York State's first penitentiary, Newgate Prison, on the Hudson River at what is now West 10th Street, near the Christopher Street pier. The building was designed by Joseph-François Mangin, who would later co-design New York City Hall. Although the intention of its first warden, Quaker prison reformer Thomas Eddy, was to provide a rational and humanitarian place for retribution and rehabilitation, the prison soon became an overcrowded and pestilent place, subject to frequent riots by the prisoners which damaged the buildings and killed some inmates. By 1821, the prison, designed for 432 inmates, held 817 instead, a number made possible only by the frequent release of prisoners, sometimes as many as 50 a day. Since the prison was north of New York City, being sentenced to Newgate became known as being "sent up the river", an expression which carried over when it was replaced by the new Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York.
The oldest house remaining in Greenwich Village is the Isaacs-Hendricks House, at 77 Bedford Street (built 1799, much altered and enlarged 1836, third story 1928). When the Church of St. Luke in the Fields was founded in 1820 it stood in fields south of the road (now Christopher Street) that led from Greenwich Lane (now Greenwich Avenue) down to a landing on the North River. In 1822, a yellow fever epidemic in New York encouraged residents to flee to the healthier air of Greenwich Village, and afterwards many stayed. The future site of Washington Square was a potter's field from 1797 to 1823 when up to 20,000 of New York's poor were buried here, and still remain. The handsome Greek revival rowhouses on the north side of Washington Square were built about 1832, establishing the fashion of Washington Square and lower Fifth Avenue for decades to come. Well into the 19th century, the district of Washington Square was considered separate from Greenwich Village.
Greenwich Village historically was known as an important landmark on the map of American bohemian culture in the early and mid-20th century. The neighborhood was known for its colorful, artistic residents and the alternative culture they propagated. Due in part to the progressive attitudes of many of its residents, the Village was 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 during the 19th century and continued into the 20th century, when small presses, art galleries, and experimental theater thrived.
The Tenth Street Studio Building was situated at 51 West 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the building was commissioned by James Boorman Johnston[c] and designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Its innovative design soon represented a national architectural prototype, and featured a domed central gallery, from which interconnected rooms radiated. Hunt's studio within the building housed the first architectural school in the United States. Soon after its completion in 1857, the building helped to make Greenwich Village central to the arts in New York City, drawing artists from all over the country to work, exhibit, and sell their art. In its initial years Winslow Homer took a studio there, as did Edward Lamson Henry, and many of the artists of the Hudson River School, including Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt.
In 1924, the Cherry Lane Theatre 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 showcase for aspiring playwrights and emerging voices.
On January 8, 1947, stevedore Andy Hintz was fatally shot by hitmen John M. Dunn, Andrew Sheridan and Danny Gentile in front of his apartment. Before he died on January 29, he told his wife that "Johnny Dunn shot me." The three gunmen were immediately arrested. Sheridan and Dunn were executed.
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, initiated in 1974 by Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee, is the world's largest Halloween parade and America's only major nighttime parade, attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, 2 million in-person spectators, and a worldwide television audience of over 100 million.
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, in particular, 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 Church on the south side of Washington Square Park.
Since end of the twentieth century, many artists and local historians have mourned the fact that the bohemian days of Greenwich Village are long gone, because of the extraordinarily high housing costs in the neighborhood. The artists fled to other New York City neighborhoods including SoHo, Tribeca, DumboWilliamsburg, and Long Island City. 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.
Historically, local residents and preservation groups have been concerned about development in the Village and have fought to preserve its architectural and historic integrity. In the 1960s, Margot Gayle led a group of citizens to preserve the Jefferson Market Courthouse (later reused as Jefferson Market Library) while other citizen groups fought to keep traffic out of Washington Square Park, 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. Shortly after the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) was established in 1965, it acted to protect parts of Greenwich Village, designating the small Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District in 1966, which contains the city's largest concentration of row houses in the Federal style, as well as a significant concentration of Greek Revival houses, and the even smaller MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District in 1967, a group of 22 houses sharing a common back garden, built in the Greek Revival style and later renovated with Colonial Revival façades. In 1969, the LPC designated the Greenwich Village Historic District — for four decades, the city's largest — despite preservationists' advocacy for the entire neighborhood to be designated an historic district. Advocates continued to pursue their goal of additional designation, spurred in particular by the increased pace of development in the 1990s.
Gansevoort Market Historic District was the first new historic district in Greenwich Village in 34 years. The 112 buildings on 11 blocks protect the city's distinctive Meatpacking District with its cobblestone streets, warehouses and rowhouses. About 70 percent of the area proposed by GVSHP in 2000 was designated a historic district by the LPC in 2003, while the entire area was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2007.
Weehawken Street Historic District, designated in 2006, is a 14-building, three-block district near the Hudson River centering on tiny Weehawken Street and containing an array of architecture including a sailors' hotel, former stables, and a wooden house.
Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I, designated in 2006, brought 46 more buildings on three blocks into the district, thus protecting warehouses, a former public school and police station, and early 19th century rowhouses. Both the Weehawken Street Historic District and the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I were designated by the LPC in response to the larger proposal for a Far West Village Historic District submitted by GVSHP in 2004.
Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, designated in 2010, embracing 225 buildings on 12 blocks, contains 19th century houses, 19th and 20th century tenements, and a variety of cultural landmarks.
South Village Historic District, designated in 2013, covers 235 buildings on 13 blocks, representing the largest single expansion of landmark protections in Greenwich Village since 1969. It includes well-preserved and renovated 19th century houses, colorful tenements, and a variety of sites important to the area's rich immigrant, artistic, and Italian-American history, as well as several low-rise, historically significant New York University buildings on Washington Square South.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated as landmarks several individual sites proposed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, including the former Bell Telephone Labs Complex (1861-1933), now Westbeth Artists' Housing, designated in 2011; the Silver Towers/University Village Complex (1967), designed by I.M. Pei and including the Picasso sculpture "Portrait of Sylvette," designated in 2008; and three early 19th-century federal houses at 127, 129 and 131 MacDougal Street.
Several contextual rezonings were enacted in Greenwich Village in recent years to limit the size and height of allowable new development in the neighborhood, and to encourage the preservation of existing buildings. The following were proposed by the GVSHP and passed by the City Planning Commission:
Far West Village Rezoning, approved in 2005, was the first downzoning in Manhattan in many years, putting in place new height caps, thus ending construction of high-rise waterfront towers in much of the Village and encouraging the reuse of existing buildings.
Washington and Greenwich Street Rezoning, approved in 2010, was passed in near-record time to protect six blocks from out-of-scale hotel development and maintain the low-rise character.
New York University and Greenwich Village preservationists have been embroiled in a conflict over campus expansion versus preservation of the scale and Bohemian character of the Village.
As one press critic put it in 2013, "For decades, New York University has waged architectural war on Greenwich Village." Recent examples of the university clashing with the community, often led by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, include the destruction of the 85 West Third Street house where Edgar Allan Poe lived from 1844-5, which NYU promised to rebuild using original materials, but then claimed not to have enough bricks to do so; the construction of the 26-story Founders Hall dorm behind the façade of demolished St. Ann's Church at 120 East Twelfth Street, which advocates protested as being out of scale for the low-rise area, and received assurances from NYU, which then built all 26 stories anyway; and the demolition in 2009 of the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments, over protests.
In 2008, as part of a multi-stakeholder Community Task Force on NYU Development, the university agreed to a set of "Planning Principles." Yet advocates did not find NYU to follow the principles in practice, culminating in a successful lawsuit against the university's "NYU 2031" plan for expansion.
The historic Washington Square Park is the center and heart of the neighborhood. Additionally, the Village has several other, smaller parks: Christopher, Father Fagan, Minetta Triangle, Petrosino Square, Little Red Square, and Time Landscape. There are also city playgrounds, including DeSalvio Playground, Minetta, Thompson Street, Bleecker Street, Downing Street, Mercer Street, Cpl. John A. Seravelli, and William Passannante Ballfield. Perhaps the most famous, though, is "The Cage", officially known as the West Fourth Street Courts. Sitting atop the West Fourth Street – Washington Square subway station (A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains) 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 citywide "Streetball" amateur basketball tournament. Since 1975, New York University's art collection has been housed at the Grey Art Gallery bordering Washington Square Park, at 100 Washington Square East. The Grey Art Gallery is notable for its museum-quality exhibitions of contemporary art.
Greenwich Village residents are zoned to two elementary schools: PS 3, Melser Charrette School, and PS 41, Greenwich Village School. Residents are zoned to Baruch Middle School 104. Residents apply to various New York City high schools. Greenwich Village High School was a private high school formerly located in the area, but later moved to SoHo.
Greenwich Village is home to New York University, which owns large sections of the area and most of the buildings around Washington Square Park. To the north is the campus of The New School, which is housed in several buildings that are considered historical landmarks because of their innovative architecture. New School's Sheila Johnson Design Center doubles as a public art gallery.Cooper Union has been located in the East Village since its founding in 1859.
In the DC Comics universe, Wonder Woman lived in the "Village" in New York City (never called by its full name, but clearly depicted as Greenwich Village) during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when she had lost most of her superpowers. Madame Xanadu lived on Chrystie Street, described alternately as being in "Greenwich Village" and the "East Village."
The Collector of Bedford Street (2002) is a documentary set in Greenwich village. It is about the neighborhood block association on Bedford street setting up a trust fund for a mentally disabled man named Larry Selman.
In Lesley M. M. Blume's children's novel, Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, the main characters reside in Greenwich Village.
The suggestion of moving to the Village shocks newlywed New York aristocrat Jamie "Rick" Ricklehouse in Nora Johnson's 1985 novel Tender Offer. The implication is telling of the Village's reputation in the New York of the 1960s before mass gentrification when it was perceived as lowly and beneath upper class society.
In an interview with Jann Wenner, John Lennon said: "I should have been born in New York, I should have been born in the Village, that's where I belong."
Buddy Holly and his wife Maria Elena Santiago lived in Apartment 4H of the Brevoort Apartments, at 11 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Here he recorded the series of acoustic songs, including "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "What to Do," known as the "Apartment Tapes," which were released after his death.
The NBC Sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–92) made several references to the Village during its run, and the townhouse used for exterior shots, though purportedly set in Brooklyn for purposes of the show, is actually located at 10 St. Luke's Place.
^The eleven freed blacks were Paul d'Angola, Big Manuel, Little Manuel, Manuel de Gerrit de Rens, Simon Congo, Anthony Portuguese. Gracia, Peter Santome, John Francisco, Little Anthony and John Fort Orange.
Kugelmass, Jack (November 1993). ""The Fun Is in Dressing up": The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and the Reimagining of Urban Space". Social Text. 36 (36): 138–152. doi:10.2307/466393. JSTOR466393.
^ abcBiography, Edward Albee Society. Accessed June 21, 2016. "Albee spent the 1950s living in Greenwich Village in a number of apartments and working a variety of odd jobs (for example, a telegram delivery person) to supplement his monthly stipend from a trust fund left for him by his paternal grandmother."
^Budin, Jeremiah. "Alec Baldwin Expands Devonshire House Empire with 1BR", Curbed New York, September 5, 2013. Accessed June 21, 2016. "First Hathaway wants out of Dumbo, then Harris moves into Harlem, and now Alec Baldwin is staying right where he is in Greenwich Village and just buying up more space in the building he already lives in."
^Spokony, Sam. "Richard Barone is 'cool' with where he is right now", The Villager, October 25, 2012. Accessed June 21, 2016. "And as a longtime Greenwich Village resident, Barone has certainly been just as active: He's maintained a presence as a community advocate, contributed valuable effort to a local nonprofit, and recently took on a professorship at New York University."
^Marino, Vivian. "Sarah Jessica Parker’s House Sells for $18.25 Million", The New York Times, July 3, 2015. Accessed June 21, 2016. "A 25-foot-wide Greek Revival-style townhouse on a prime tree-lined street in Greenwich Village that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick bought, refurbished and promptly returned to the market, sold for $18,250,000 and was the most expensive closed sale of the week, according to city records."
^Saxon, Wolfgang. "Jacob Cohen, 74, Psychologist And Pioneer in Statistical Studies", The New York Times, February 7, 1998. Accessed June 21, 2016. "Dr. Jacob Cohen, a professor emeritus of psychology at New York University who reinvented some of the ways researchers in the behavioral sciences gather and interpret their statistics, died on Jan. 20 at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center. He was 74 and a resident of Greenwich Village and South Wellfleet on Cape Cod in Massachusetts."
^Turner, Christopher. Adventures in the Orgasmatron, excerpted in The New York Times, September 23, 2011. Accessed November 2, 2016. "Greenwich Village bohemians, such as the writers Max Eastman and Floyd Dell, the anarchist Emma Goldman, who had been "deeply impressed by the lucidity" of Freud's 1909 lectures, and Mabel Dodge, who ran an avant-garde salon in her apartment on Fifth Avenue, adapted psychoanalysis to create their own free-love philosophy."
^"No. 50 West 10th Street -- A Carriage House with Broadway History", Daytonian in Manhattan, June 14, 2011. Accessed November 3, 2016. "In 1949 Evans purchased No. 50 West 10th, starting its tradition as the home to celebrated theatrical names. When Evans sold the house in May 1965 for $120,000, it was the illustrious playwright Edward Albee who moved in.... Only three years later Albee sold the house to composer and lyricist Jerry Herman for $210,000."
^Grove, Lloyd; Morgan, Hudson (July 15, 2005). "'GMA' Hails a High-Flying Competitor". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 26, 2017. If movie star Edward Norton never hears another mention of the West Side stadium, it'll be too soon. At Wednesday night's Friends of the High Line summer benefit, the West Village resident voiced his disdain....
^Finn, Terri Lowen. "Leontyne Price Returning", The New York Times, September 13, 1981. Accessed December 19, 2016. "On a recent morning at her Federal Era home in Greenwich Village, Miss Price agreed to share some of her thoughts on the satisfactions - and pitfalls - of a vocal career, and her plans for the future."
^Itzkoff, Dave. "James Spader Prepares for Avengers: Age of Ultron", The New York Times, April 22, 2015. Accessed November 3, 2016. "One overcast spring afternoon, James Spader was lurking in plain sight, standing on the stoop of the Greenwich Village townhouse where he lives, wearing a sport coat, a fedora and a bright purple scarf, smoking a cigarette and talking on a cellphone with the producers of his NBC series, The Blacklist."
^"Uma Thurman's stalker arrested", London Evening Standard, December 1, 2010. Accessed December 19, 2016. "During his 2008 trial, Jordan - who had been found outside the star's home in Greenwich Village, New York - said he would have left the Pulp Fiction beauty alone if he knew his behaviour was scaring her."
^Farmer, Ann. "35 Lucky, and Hungry, Diners Eat and Walk With Calvin Trillin", The New York Times, October 5, 2008. Accessed December 19, 2016. "The tour stems from the Sunday strolls he would take with his wife, Alice, and their two daughters. Starting from their home in Greenwich Village and ending in Chinatown, they would stop to sample some of the city's best ethnic dishes at various Old World and hole-in-the-wall establishments."
^Itzkoff, Dave. "ARTSBEAT; Judge Clears Disturbia In Infringement Suit", The New York Times, September 23, 2010. Accessed November 3, 2016. "No matter what James Stewart thought he saw from his wheelchair perched perilously close to the window overlooking his Greenwich Village courtyard in Rear Window, a federal judge said she did not see enough similarities between that 1954 Alfred Hitchcock thriller and the 2007 film Disturbia to rule that it infringed on the copyright of the earlier movie."
^La Ferla, Ruth. "Downbeat Never Looked So Good", The New York Times, August 17, 2006. Accessed November 3, 2016. "Looking lithe if slightly owlish, Audrey Hepburn made a fetching bookstore-clerk-turned-model in Funny Face, the action of that 1957 film whisking her from grotty Greenwich Village to the Left Bank of Paris."
^Whitty, Stephen. "Family Viewing: Wait Until Dark", ArtiSyndicate, February 22, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2016. "Wait Until Dark 1967: Directed by Terence Young. With Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin.... Once upon a time: Susy, the 'world's champion blind lady,' is alone in her chic Greenwich Village apartment when the doorbell rings."