new york city neighbourhood guide
Bordered by 14th Street on the south, 34th Street on the north, Sixth Avenue on the east and the Hudson River on the south, Chelsea is one of New York City’s most sought-after residential neighbourhoods. The neighbourhood’s characteristic step-up rowhouses were built by wealthy New Yorkers in the mid-nineteenth century, and many of their owners’ likenesses are depicted by facial icons that ornament the transoms of the building entrances. Chelsea is New York’s centre for gay culture, and it contains more than 200 art galleries. It also has many popular and eclectic restaurants that are sheltered from the bustle of other areas of Manhattan.
New York has one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. New York first began receiving Chinese immigrants in the 1870s, and the majority of them began congregating in the neighbourhood, which is bound by Canal Street on the north, The Bowery on the east, Worth Street on the south, and Baxter Street on the west. On Mulberry Street, Canal Street, and East Broadway, visitors can find traditional fish mongers and green grocers displaying their trade. Chinese jewelry can be found on Canal Street between Mott and the Bowery, while further west on the street, the famous vendors of imitation goods gather in crowded storefronts. The district also houses over 200 Asian restaurants.
The East Village
The eastern part of Manhattan between 14th Street and Houston Street is known as the East Village, and has for long been one of the hippest areas of the city. Unlike other parts of Greenwich Village, the East Village is integrated into the city’s street grid system and is easy to maneuver within. The neighbourhood has for long been considered one of the strongest contributors to the American arts scene. In the 1950s, it was home to many members of the Beat Generation, and numerous Jazz and Folk music clubs graced its streets. In the 1960s, hippies, musicians, and artists moved into the neighbourhood, and their influence is still seen in its many small galleries and music stores. The East Village is also sometimes considered to be the birthplace of punk music, and contains some of Manhattan’s most popular nightclubs.
The Financial District
Manhattan’s Downtown Financial District , located south of City Hall to the tip of the island at Battery Park, is not only a district of somber office towers and early-century skyscrapers. It overlays the historic birthplace of New York City, and many of its historical attractions, including Federal Hall, are to be found along its narrow streets. The Financial District’s most famous street is Wall Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange. The district’s other main tourist attractions include the old Fulton Fish Market, the South Street Seaport, Battery Park, and the World Trade Center site.
Perhaps Manhattan’s most famous neighbourhood, Greenwich village lies to the west of the East Village, between 14th and Houston Streets. It was indeed an autonomous village into the nineteenth century and was exempted from the city’s grid system, and thus maintains a scattered and at times confusing street pattern. Often simply referred to as ‘The Village’, Greenwich is centred upon Washington Square Park, a popular lounging area for residents, buskers, students, and visitors, with the Washington Arch — a scaled-down depiction of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
Greenwich Village was a landmark for the Bohemian culture in the early twentieth century, and its deep literary tradition has included the writers Henry James, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O’Neill, Dylan Thomas, and the Beat Generation, who gathered in the neighbourhood’s many small bars and coffee shops. The area was also an important player in the development of Folk and Jazz music. Today, Greenwich Village is home to an endless assortment of restaurants, which are often much more affordable than elsewhere in New York. Its unique brownstone architecture and its small parks also add to the neighbourhood feel of the district that makes it a refreshing escape from the bustle of the big city.
Harlem is a vast neighbourhood that spans most of the northern end of Manhattan Island. It was settled by Dutch sailors in 1658, and maintained a village atmosphere through the mid-nineteenth century. The area was then developed, and soon became a gathering place for African Americans. The “Harlem Renaissance” of the 1920s was responsible for highlighting the artistic achievements of African Americans, and popularized key literary and musical figures.
Harlem fell into harder times during the Great Depression and was considered a ghetto by mid-century. However, since the 1970s, changing federal and city policies have improved the prospects for the district. Crime has fallen dramatically and many of the area’s once-decrepit buildings have been improved. Harlem has today become a destination for tourists seeking to learn about black history and to take in excellent Blues and Jazz.
New York’s Italian community was once a thriving and highly-centralized diaspora that resided in Lower Manhattan below Houston Street near Broadway. Today, most Italian-Americans have moved from the district, but the neighbourhood (which is centred upon Mulberry Street) still contains a high concentration of fine Italian restaurants, grocers, and cafés, and plays host to a number of annual Italian festivals.
Lower East Side
Located below Houston Street and east of Chinatown, the Lower East side was traditionally the starting point for many immigrant families to New York City, who resided in its characteristic tenement apartment buildings. Today, this heritage is recognized in the Lower East Side preservation district, which tries to protect historic tenement buildings from the pressures of gentrification. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a must-see for history buffs visiting New York City. The Lower East Side is also the historic centre for the city’s Eastern European Jewish culture, and is home to numerous traditional-style Kosher delicatessens and bakeries.
Encompassing the area “South of Houston” west of Broadway and north of Canal Street, SoHo is known as New York’s artists’ district, and contains endless small galleries and studio spaces. It is also the main part of the Cast Iron Historic District, which was created in the 1970s as a means of protecting the area’s characteristic nineteenth century cast-iron structures from demolition and redevelopment. SoHo is no longer affordable for many artists, and has become one of the most posh shopping districts in the country. The northern end of the neighbourhood contains many boutiques and restaurants that attract tourists, residents, and celebrities alike.
The “Triangle Below Canal Street” lies to the south of SoHo, above Park Place and west of Broadway. It is dominated by former industrial buildings that have been converted into residential lofts, and has recently become one of Manhattan’s most expensive zip codes; the district might contain the highest concentration of actors and celebrities in New York City. The neighbourhood is perhaps most famous for being home to the TriBeCa Film Festival, which was created in 2002 by resident Robert DeNiro as a means of improving the neighbourhood’s fortunes after the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Today the festival is considered one of the most important independent film events in the world.
Upper East Side
Located north of 59th Street and east of Central Park, the Upper East Side has some of the most expensive real estate in the United States and is home to many individuals with a great amount of wealth. Because of this, some of the city’s most prestigious shops and restaurants can be found lining Madison, Park, and Fifth Avenues. The Upper East Side is also home to “Museum Mile”, an area along Central Park East that houses, among others, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum. The same strip was once dubbed “Millionaire’s Row” after its affluent denizens.
Upper West Side
Located between the Hudson River and Central Park, and north of 59th Street, the Upper West Side is a vibrant, liberal residential district. The neighbourhood’s quiet residential streets give way to some of the city’s best cultural attractions and most unique restaurants. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, between 62nd and 65th Streets, is home to the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, and the Julliard School of Music, and the many businesses and restaurants surrounding the Center reflect the tastes of patrons to these institutions. The Upper West Side is also home to the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, Grant’s Tomb, and the Church of St. John the Divine.