EAT AT JOE'S?
NOT ANY MORE
Vampire Landlords Suck The Life Out Of Greenwich Village
First, Zito's Bakery on Bleecker near Cornelia; now, Joe's Pizza, on Bleecker and Leroy: The heart of the old South Village, the Italian neighbourhood where cheap espresso and friendly padroni encouraged the Beat generation to set up their bongos. It's been a long time since anything that cool happened in the West Village.
But, still: Greenwich Village, East, and West, is a social and cultural oasis for the whole city, the entire "metropolitan area." Leather-men from Wall Street mingle with tourists from Tokyo, punks from New Jersey, runway models from Prague and Peoria, and runaways from Saskatoon. It's one of those places where ages, races and classes can and do mix easily, most of the time: No sky-high prices, no velvet ropes, a lot of open doors.
It gets a little rough around the edges, which now stretch from West Street, on the Hudson River to Avenue D, near the East River, and from 14th Street to somewhere a little below Houston. All of the surrounding areas are interesting places to live: Chelsea, Union Square/Flatiron, Gramercy Park, Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village, Alphabet City, the Lower East Side, NoHo, SoHo and TriBeCa.
The West Village itself can be a bit much at times, with all the activity, and the rents are astronomical, if you can even find a place. But the two-hundred-year-old single-family homes, the brownstones from the era of Henry James, the rehabbed tenements crammed with immigrants, students and worker-bees, and the few modern "luxury doorman hi-rise" buildings are still the first choice of many New Yorkers, and wannabees.
That's because of the street-life, not in spite of it. You can step outside your doorway at any time of the day or night, and there's bound to be something going on. At the very least, you can get an old book or a fresh bagel, a quick drink or a leisurely espresso, absolutely any time. What makes it all real is the little shops and businesses that line the streets.
The fresh-baked whole-wheat Italian bread, like a chunk of cake from heaven, from Zito's. The moist, fresh dates rolled in coconut shreds at the fruit-stand on Sixth and Greenwich. (Is that still there?) The blisteringly hot egg curry vindaloo, available even for breakfast at the Indian Village. The dozens of boutiques and shoe stores, record shops and bookstores, emporiums and purveyors of everything imaginable on Christopher Street, Waverly Place, Greenwich Avenue, West Fourth, West Eighth... and, of course, Bleeker Street.
Bleeker Street is really the heart of the Village. It runs all the way from Abingdon Square (near the old White Horse Tavern, favorite watering hole of Eugene O'Neill and Dylan Thomas), where Baird Searles used to have the BEST Sci-Fi bookshop, through the heart of the gay Village; to Washington Square, where all the great old jazz and folk clubs were, through NYU; the bars and shops and theaters of NoHo; and on to the Bowery, at CBGBs, birthplace of American Punk-Rock, Art-Rock and New Wave bands.
You can't find a more interesting walk anyplace in the world. And, while it might look like a freak show to the tourists, it's a real byway in a real neighbourhood to those who live and work there. So, when two fabled stores close on one block of it in one year, you know something very bad is happening. When greedy, blood-sucking landlords rip the heart out of one of the greatest neighbourhoods in the entire world, you know somebody evil is in charge.
Yup, you guessed it: Republicans. Though weasels like Bloomberg and Giuliani like to talk about small businesses, they always come down on the side of big businesses. Big landlords have turned the Upper East and Upper West Sides into a yuppies' paradise, stripped it of all their character, and replaced it with Starbucks and the Gap. No more Cuban-Chinese breakfasts. No more German or French pastries. No more jazz under the stairs at three a.m. No more spicey Hungarian coffee-shops. No more funky bars and restaurants, bodegas and delis.
Just bland blah-blah like you'd find in any nondescript mall-ified city anywhere else: It ain't New York any more. Those Repukelickins have stalled any attempt at commercial rent-control, or cultural landmark status for existing businesses, for years now. So all those great small businesses that New Yorkers love so much are dying. And so is New York.
Yeah, I know, I'm getting old. Wrong. I'll never grow up, I'll never grow up, I'll never grow up. As long as something new and different, original and organic, unique and individual, alive and creative is coming in, the City is fine, and I'm fine with it. But when thriving businesses that have been serving, hell, delighting the community for twenty, fifty, a hundred years or more are forced out by gigantic, unconscionable increases in rent by absentee landlords, just to bring in fast-food franchises or Eurotrash boutiques, I'm not OK with that, and neither is New York City.
So, if you're not interested in local politics, and you can't be bothered with how things are run in your town, get ready to see everything good destroyed by a few greedy pigs and unscrupulous politicians. Laws could be passed to protect your town, to encourage small businesses, to retain the character of neighbourhoods, and enrich your own life. But you have to get involved, and elect people who will write and enact those laws. Politics is not some obscure, abstract game: It's your life. Your daily bread, even. Like cake from heaven: Don't let them take it right our of your mouth. Get involved, and stay involved. Or NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!
Beloved West Village Pizza Place Closing After Almost 30 Years
A Landmark Bakery Closes in the Village
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