The East Village continues to grow up and settle down—Tompkins Square Park is full of strollers and dogs, and shops peddling wedding gowns and sleek housewares have popped up alongside the piercing parlors and record stores. “The area has matured; it’s less transient. A lot of people with kids,” observes Corcoran’s Glenn Schiller. The rental tenements that once housed students and non-yuppies have been replaced by better-capitalized people looking to buy their places. “A lot of people who already own are buying adjacent apartments,” says Schiller. “We convinced a developer to turn one of his rentals into a condo,” says Andy Gerringer of Douglas Elliman, “and we sold it in three weeks. The demand in the area was so great, we could raise prices in what people say is a slow market.”
STREET LIFE: The East Village bar-restaurant pandemic seems to be finally under control—the community board doesn’t make it very easy to get a liquor license, which could help explain why some of the older downscale places, like roach-flecked Leshko’s, have gone all Wallpaper-y and slick. With the squatters and drug dealers gone, the place has become a sanitized rec zone for the twentysomething population of the whole city. It’s also home to a stretch of gay bars that rivals Eighth Avenue’s.
TIPPING POINT: The renovation of Tompkins Square, the condo-ization of the Christadora House on the park at 9th Street, and the construction of the hip-but-fancy Red Square complex on East Houston all came at the height of the last boom. Gentrification was beaten back for a while, but with the purging of Alphabet City squatters and drug dealers, even Avenue C stopped feeling risky and started being a good place for people who pay their rent on time to raise a little hell and eat Brazilian food.
WHAT’S NEW: Despite being next door to a halfway house and across the street from the projects, 280 East Houston near Avenue C, a rental so bourgeois it has its own gym, filled up within months of opening in 1998. “It prompted a whole bunch of smaller developers to buy up the area,” says Lake Shaw of Citi-Habitats. A rash of boxy, orange-brick apartment houses have replaced the neighborhood’s many vacant lots, community gardens, and makeshift parking spaces— vestiges of a time when it made more sense to just let a tenement burn down than to pay taxes on it. Everyone agrees that the new places are pretty yucky-looking, as if they’d been carved out of cinder block. But so far, at least there aren’t any high-rises.
PROGNOSIS: Bigger projects to come. As Shaw says, “Downtown is heavily protected by zoning against high-rise development—and the East Village is going to be the first place where they’ll break those rules.”
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