Alphabet City is a NYC neighborhood in the East Village of Manhattan. The origin of this out-of-the-box name is surprisingly not so out of the box at all. Its name stems from Avenues A,B,C, and D—the only Manhattan avenues with single-letter names. Alphabet City sits south of 14th Street and north of Houston Street, along the East Village’s northern border and south of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town.
This neighborhood has always claimed an edgy vibe. From artistic haven to city slums and back again, Alphabet City certainly is not lacking in character. It’s an excellent NYC-neighborhood option for young professionals with starting salaries and lower income residents.
If you’re looking to move to Alphabet City, get from A to B with NYC’s leading relocation company—Shleppers Moving and Storage! But first, learn more about your potential new neighborhood below:
Then & Now
This Manhattan neighborhood possesses a long history. It was once a melting pot of Jewish, Polish, Hispanic, and German inhabitants. Before this, Alphabet City was actually a large stretch of the East River ecosystem’s salt marsh that was drained and claimed by real estate developers in the early 1800s.
By the mid-19th century the area was considered Little Germany—until most Germans moved Uptown to Yorkville. It was then that Alphabet City changed hands to the Eastern European Jewish, Irish and Italian immigrants. Tenaments were plentiful and Alphabet City was known as one of the worst slums in Manhattan—with the area also being the red-light district of the city.
In the mid 1900s, a wave of Puerto Rican residents settled into Alphabet City and by the 1960s the area became nicknamed as “Loisaida”—Spanglish for “Lower East Side”. The district played an important role in the establishment and strengthening of Puerto Rican culture identity in New York—otherwise known as the Nuyorican Movement. Numerous poets, artists and intellectuals referred to Loisaida as their home throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. Eventually, Alphabet City, otherwise known as Loisaida, was home to mostly Puerto Rican and African American families living amongst musicians and artists. The areas lower rents, artistic atmosphere drew in a Bohemian population and the district became known for housing some of the first graffiti writers, DJs, rappers and b-boys. Much of the dynamics within Alphabet City during this time is exhibited in the well-known Broadway musical Rent.
Alphabet City is also well-known for what resulted from an attempt made by the police to evict large numbers of homeless from Tompkins Square Park.
Alphabet City saw a wave of gentrification in the 1990s and early 2000’s as a result of higher rents and lower crime rates in the area. Renovated apartments and a number of restaurants, retail stores and nightclubs have replaced abandoned storefronts. Present-day Alphabet City is a very attractive place to live for young working professionals due to its nightlife.
A standard 1-bedroom apartment in Alphabet City will run you about $3100 per month—with studio apartments available for only $400 cheaper. A 5-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in Alphabet City that sold for $140,000 in 1992, is now worth roughly $2 million. However, due to the city’s Housing and Development Fund Corporation’s efforts to transform neglected buildings into co-ops for lower income residents—these co-ops now make up about 40% of the owned housing in the neighborhood.
Where Old Meets New: Alphabet City
This opportunity has allowed younger, lower income professionals to move into the area and attribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood.
Condos, rental-buildings and newer developments sit alongside postwar housing complexes in this eclectic mix of a neighborhood.
Tompkins Square Park spans across 10.5 acres at the center of the neighborhood. Once the scene of a violent riot, the area now plays host to basketball courts and playgrounds, the first dog run in Manhattan, handball courts, a Ping-Pong table and outdoor chess tables.
Other small parks are sprinkled around the neighborhood—the most notable being 6BC Botanical Garden.
Dive bars and cafes are plentiful in Alphabet City. SideWalk Café started hosting a weekly open-mic night in 1985, and hasn’t stopped since.
There are three schools in the neighborhood, all located at 600 East Sixth Street in the same building. One of the school, the Earth School, boasts a green-focused program from pre-k through fifth grade.
Currently, there are new entrances under construction at the L train’s First Avenue stop on East 14th Street. Otherwise, Alphabet City residents get around town with any of the five city bus lines running in the area.
Read about more things to do and see in NYC’s Alphabet City here.
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