Alphabet City, Manhattan, New York City
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Alphabet City, formerly considered a slum, is now a trendy part of the East Village in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names. It is bordered by Houston Street to the south and 23rd Street to the north where Avenue C ends. However, the historic boundaries of the Lower East Side - which transformed into the modern-day Lower East Side and Alphabet City - place the northern border at 14th Street. Some famous landmarks include Tompkins Square Park, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the Stuyvesant Town private residential community.
Cultural landscape and changes
Alphabet City has always been home to some of the most important cultural movements to occur in New York and worldwide. Although the neighborhood was once largely Jewish, German, Irish, and Italian, the cultural landscape of the neighborhood to most living New Yorkers is one that changed dramatically. Alphabet City's once diverse cultural landscape is arguably becoming more homogeneous by the day. At one time it was home to many of the first graffiti writers, b-boys, rappers, and DJs. The projects along the East River on Avenue D, although always fairly dangerous, have been a cultural powerhouse in the city's recent history. Much of the culture of Alphabet City may have stemmed from the diverse surroundings of the neighborhood and the mix of poverty and decay with wealth and beauty nearby. Chinatown and the Lower East Side to the south, Gramercy and Midtown to the Northwest, Union Square and the Bowery to the West, and not far from SoHo and the Financial District, Alphabet City in the '70s, '80s, and even '90s was a decaying melting pot adjacent to some of the most fast-paced and iconic neighborhoods in New York City. Even within Alphabet City the mix of demographics often led to interesting movements and understandings. With the largely white, middle to lower-middle class housing complex of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village comprising the northern area of the neighborhood, a multitude of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics dispersed throughout, a small remainder of the old European immigrant population, and a steady flux of artists, such things as the highly bohemian yet incredibly urban community gardens of the neighborhood are truly unique to it.
Alphabet City in the 21st century lost the influences and gained higher rents, cleaner streets, and lower crime. Whereas 14th Street up until the late 1990s was a bustling working-class commercial center that was also very high-crime, there exists today only relics of that era on the street and an inkling of the crime there once was. Although the transformation of the neighborhood has made it more accessible and safer, it has also displaced tens of thousands of residents who maintained Alphabet City as one of the strongest 'neighborhoods' in the city. Unfortunately, much of its neighborhood identity today is gone, becoming a fuzzy combination of the Lower East Side and the East Village; however one thing that Alphabet City has which few other neighborhoods do is that its borders can never change unless the avenues are renamed from the letters they are today.
In the early '60s, Vazak's, on the corner of 7th street and Avenue B, was one of the last bars in New York to have a free lunch counter.
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