Greenwich Village residents past and present always want to tell you about their first apartment there. “Seventy dollars a month, can you believe it?” crowed a friend the other day, reminiscing about the studio with the tiny bathroom under the eaves of a crumbling brownstone he rented in the ’60s.
Outcasts and rebels, poets and artists, gay and straight, seekers and settlers have been calling the Village home for four centuries. Even the streets are unruly: The grid that defines Manhattan short-circuits here.
You can still hear jazz, catch a game of chess, see an art film, get a cheap haircut, find a late-night pizza or get lost looking for Christopher Street. But those who hate change have plenty to bemoan. Today’s settlers have far deeper pockets than those when Emma Goldman, Edgar Allan Poe, Jackson Pollock and Bob Dylan walked these streets. The price of brownstones is a different story entirely, one that includes glassy new construction, upscale restaurants and dozens of gyms.
Still, there’s magic in that first brush. Richard Mumby fell for the neighborhood when he rented there in the ’90s. His work in start-up businesses took him to San Francisco and New Orleans, but in 2016 he was ready to move back. To him, the Village felt like a small town.
He wanted to buy in a prewar building that felt “neighborhoodly,” he said — something that was not too formal but had a full-time doorman, since he is single and travels frequently. He identified four buildings on lower Fifth Avenue, kept an eye on new listings and was “pleasantly surprised” when a one-bedroom in one of them worked out.
Convenience was another draw: With multiple subway lines and plenty of Citi Bike docks, Mr. Mumby, 39, can get wherever he needs to be, and forays to the Whitney and the New Museum are an easy stroll. He also frequents longtime neighborhood joints; Japonica, Bar Pitti and Otto are a few of his favorites.
“I love going to spots where people know you, are glad to see you and know what you like,” he said. “Humans — especially this human — find that having familiarity and rituals in your life is comforting, and the neighborhood lends itself well to that. It’s a wonderful pocket of community.”
Darren Sukenik, an agent with Douglas Elliman, has been selling properties in the Village for 20 years. “Its history is artsy and edgy,” he said. “The people buying here now are not necessarily artsy and edgy, but so much of it is historically protected that no matter who comes in, it can’t change.”Meris Blumstein, who has lived in a 2,500-square-foot loft on 11th Street since “the days before anyone knew what a loft was,” started work as a receptionist for the Corcoran real estate agency in 1990 and now leads a sales team that includes her husband and their two grown children, Sydney and Cole. “We raised them there, we have lots of parties there, they’d kill us if we sold it,” she said, referring to the loft.
Between the West Village, with its maze of narrow historic streets, and the East Village — an early locus for the down and out, then artists’ haven and punk-rock heaven, now a tidy mecca for young professionals who fill its renovated walk-ups, wine bars and tapas places — is Greenwich Village proper. There are no official boundaries to the Village; outlines have always been argued over, but those who want to claim proximity to the park coulduse Houston to 14th Street and Seventh Avenue to Lafayette Street (Fourth Avenue) to define their search.
At the heart of the Village, Washington Square Park, recently polished by a $30.6 million restoration, is a perpetual magnet for first-timers to New York and political demonstrators. Residents have its 9.75 acres — with two dog runs, a toddler-friendly playground, a gracious fountain and plentiful benches — mostly to themselves morning to midafternoon. After that, they have to wend through tourists posing in front of Stanford White’s grand arch, skateboarders and street performers, among others.What You’ll Find
The smorgasbord of living spaces includes centuries-old brownstones, well-appointed prewar apartment buildings, high-ceilinged spaces in former factories and, increasingly, pricey luxury dwellings in steel-and-glass buildings. The Greenwich Lane, built where St. Vincent’s Hospital once stood (its closing is still a sore point for many), is nearing completion. A new park with an AIDS memorial, created by the developers as part of the deal, includes a patch of green, a round stone fountain and geometric white sails.
Another blocklong apartment building is rising where the funky Bowlmor stood on University Place.
There’s a caveat emptor here: Because the neighborhood is so old, there is constant infrastructure repair (a water-main project near Washington Square Park isn’t expected to be completed until 2020), and because it is desirable, buildings rise wherever preservationists allow. Be prepared forWhat You’ll Pay
“There is no average price in the Village,” Ms. Blumstein said. The median sales price for a studio in May 2017 was $570,000; a 16,650-square-foot mansion on West 10th Street is currently listed for $59.5 million.
The median sales price for a one-bedroom is about $1.195 million, according to StreetEasy. And the median sales price for all homes in Greenwich Village between May and August was $2.2 million, according to the real estate site Trulia, while the average price per square foot was $2,132.