Beginning in the early 1980s, residential development spread in the Far West Village between West and Hudson Streets, from West 14th to West Houston Streets, resulting in the area being given its own name.
Historically, local residents and preservation groups have been concerned about development in the Village and have fought to preserve the architectural and historic integrity of the neighborhood. More than 50 blocks of West Village, bordered on the north by 14th Street, is part of a Historic District established by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The District's convoluted borders run no farther south than 4th Street or St. Luke's Place, and no farther east than Washington Square East or University Place. Redevelopment in this area is severely restricted, and developers must preserve the main facade and aesthetics of the buildings even during renovation. This district—which was, for four decades, the city's largest—was created in 1969 by the then-four-year-old New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. However, preservationists advocated for the entire neighborhood to be designated an historic district; although it covers most of the West Village, the blocks closest to the Hudson River are excluded.
Advocates continued to pursue their goal of additional designation, spurred in particular by the increased pace of development in the 1990s. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the architectural and cultural character and heritage of the neighborhood, successfully proposed new districts and individual landmarks to the LPC. Those include:Gansevoort Market Historic District was the first new historic district in Greenwich Village in 34 years. The 112 buildings on 11 blocks protect the city's distinctive Meatpacking District with its cobblestone streets, warehouses and rowhouses. About 70 percent of the area proposed by GVSHP in 2000 was designated a historic district by the LPC in 2003, while the entire area was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2007.
Weehawken Street Historic District, designated in 2006, is a 14-building, three-block district near the Hudson River centering on tiny Weehawken Street and containing an array of architecture including a sailor's hotel, former stables, and a wooden house.
Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I, designated in 2006, brought 46 more buildings on three blocks into the district, thus protecting warehouses, a former public school and police station, and early 19th-century rowhouses. Both the Weehawken Street Historic District and the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I were designated by the LPC in response to the larger proposal for a Far West Village Historic District submitted by GVSHP in 2004. The Landmarks Preservation Commission also designated as landmarks several individual sites proposed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, including the former Bell Telephone Labs Complex (1861–1963), now Westbeth Artists Community, designated in 2011; and houses at 159 Charles Street and 354 W. 11th Street, as well as the Keller Hotel, all in 2007.
In addition, several contextual rezonings were enacted in Greenwich Village in recent years to limit the size and height of allowable new development in the neighborhood, and to encourage the preservation of existing buildings. The following were proposed by the GVSHP and passed by the City Planning Commission:Far West Village Rezoning, approved in 2005, was the first downzoning in Manhattan in many years, putting in place new height caps, thus ending construction of high-rise waterfront towers in much of the Village and encouraging the reuse of existing buildings.
Washington and Greenwich Street Rezoning, approved in 2010, was passed in near-record time to protect six blocks from out-of-scale hotel development and maintain the low-rise character.
The West Village historically was known as an important landmark on the map of American bohemian culture in the early and mid-twentieth century. The neighborhood was known for its colorful, artistic residents and the alternative culture they propagated. Due in part to the progressive attitudes of many of its residents, the Village was a focal point of new movements and ideas, whether political, artistic, or cultural. This tradition as an enclave of avant-garde and alternative culture was established during the 19th century and into the 20th century, when small presses, art galleries, and experimental theater thrived. Known as "Little Bohemia" starting in 1916, West Village is in some ways the center of the bohemian lifestyle on the West Side, with classic artists' lofts in the form of the Westbeth Artists Community and Julian Schnabel's Palazzo Chupi. It is also the site of sleek new residential towers designed by American architect Richard Meier facing the Hudson River at 173/176 Perry Street.
The Tenth Street Studio Building was situated at 51 West 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the building was commissioned by James Boorman Johnston and designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Its innovative design soon represented a national architectural prototype, and featured a domed central gallery, from which interconnected rooms radiated. Hunt's studio within the building housed the first architectural school in the United States. Soon after its completion in 1857, the building helped to make Greenwich Village central to the arts in New York City, drawing artists from all over the country to work, exhibit, and sell their art. In its initial years Winslow Homer took a studio there, as did Edward Lamson Henry, and many of the artists of the Hudson River School, including Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt.
From the late 19th century through the 21st century, the Hotel Albert has served as a cultural icon of Greenwich Village. Opened during the 1880s and originally located at 11th Street and University Place, called the Hotel St. Stephan and then after 1902, called the Hotel Albert while under the ownership of William Ryder it served as a meeting place, restaurant and dwelling for several important artists and writers from the late 19th century well into the 20th century. After 1902, the owner's brother Albert Pinkham Ryder lived and painted there. Some of the other famous guests who lived there include: Augustus St. Gaudens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman, Anaïs Nin, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Lowell, Horton Foote, Salvador Dalí, Philip Guston, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and many others. During the golden age of bohemianism, Greenwich Village became famous for such eccentrics as Joe Gould (profiled at length by Joseph Mitchell) and Maxwell Bodenheim, dancer Isadora Duncan, writer William Faulkner, and playwright Eugene O'Neill. Political rebellion also made its home here, whether serious (John Reed) or frivolous (Marcel Duchamp and friends set off balloons from atop Washington Square Arch, proclaiming the founding of "The Independent Republic of Greenwich Village").
In 1924, the Cherry Lane Theatre was established. Located at 38 Commerce Street, it is New York City's oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theater. A landmark in Greenwich Village's cultural landscape, it was built as a farm silo in 1817, and also served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory before Edna St. Vincent Millay and other members of the Provincetown Players converted the structure into a theatre they christened the Cherry Lane Playhouse, which opened on March 24, 1924, with the play The Man Who Ate the Popomack. During the 1940s The Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, and the Downtown Theater movement all took root there, and it developed a reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights and emerging voices could showcase their work.
In one of the many Manhattan properties that Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the Whitney Studio Club at 8 West 8th Street as a facility where young artists could exhibit their works in 1914. By the 1930s the place would evolve to become her greatest legacy, the Whitney Museum of American Art, on the site of today's New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. The Whitney was founded in 1931, as an answer to the Museum of Modern Art, founded 1928, and its collection of mostly European modernism and its neglect of American Art. Gertrude Whitney decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works. In 1936, the renowned Abstract Expressionist artist and teacher Hans Hofmann moved his art school from E. 57th Street to 52 West 9th Street. In 1938, Hofmann moved again to a more permanent home at 52 West 8th Street. The school remained active until 1958 when Hofmann retired from teaching.
On January 8, 1947, stevedore Andy Hintz was fatally shot by hitmen John M. Dunn, Andrew Sheridan and Danny Gentile in front of his apartment. Before he died on January 29, he told his wife that "Johnny Dunn shot me." The three gunmen were immediately arrested. Sheridan and Dunn were executed.
The Village hosted the first racially integrated night club in the United States, when Café Society was opened in 1938 at 1 Sheridan Square by Barney Josephson. Café Society showcased African American talent and was intended to be an American version of the political cabarets Josephson had seen in Europe before World War I. Notable performers there included among others: Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Lead Belly, Anita O'Day, Charlie Parker, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Paul Robeson, Kay Starr, Art Tatum, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Josh White, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, and The Weavers, who also in Christmas 1949, played at the Village Vanguard.
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, initiated in 1974 by Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee, is the world's largest Halloween parade and America's only major nighttime parade, attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, 2 million in-person spectators, and a worldwide television audience of over 100 million.
The neighborhood is distinguished by streets that are "off the grid", being set at an angle to the other streets in Manhattan. These roads were laid out in an 18th-century grid plan, approximately parallel or perpendicular to the Hudson, long before the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 which created the main street grid plan for later parts of the city. Even streets that were given numbers in the 19th century to make them nominally part of the grid can be idiosyncratic, at best. West 4th Street, formerly Asylum Street, crosses West 10th, 11th and 12th Streets, ending at an intersection with West 13th Street. Heading north on Greenwich Street, West 12th Street is separated by three blocks from Little West 12th Street, which in turn is one block south of West 13th Street. Further, some of the smaller east-west residential streets are paved with setts (often confused with cobblestones), particularly in Far West Village and the Meatpacking District.
This grid is prevalent through the rest of Greenwich Village as well.
The approximate residential population in the West Village is 34,000 people based on seven 2010 Census Tracts for Manhattan Community District 2. Some population characteristics include:10% of the population in the West Village is less than 20 years old (27% of population of entire US is less than 20 years old)
45% of the population in the West Village is 20–39 years old (versus 27% in entire US)
Females aged 20–39 make up 25% of the population in the West Village (13% of population in entire US) Females aged 20–29 make up 14% of the population in the West Village versus 7% in the entire US. Females in West Village represent 52% of the population versus 51% in all of the US.
80% of the population was born in the US (87% in entire US)
Average household income by census tract was $180,000 (compared to $51,000 average household income by state for entire US)
A study by NYU estimated that 1.61 million workers commute to Manhattan during the workweek, 8,000 of them to the West Village.
About 13,000 out-of-town visitors also visit the neighborhood daily. A portion of these approximately 139,452 domestic and international visitors that enter the city daily visit or stay in the West Village; an average of 11,000 people visit the High Line every day.
Community Board 2 (CB2) deals with land use and zoning matters, municipal service delivery and community concerns of an area including the West Village. New York City's Community Boards review data collected by the 311 Customer Service Center. 3-1-1 is a non-emergency telephone number, and New York City releases monthly reports on the number of requests for services to 311. In April 2013 there were 77 non-emergency calls per day, up 8% sequentially and down 2% year-over-year.
There were approximately nine crime complaints per day in the New York City Police Department's Sixth Precinct (which includes the West Village and the area east of Sixth Avenue to Broadway between Houston and 14th Streets) year-to-date as of May 12, 2013, according to NYPD crime data. According to the data, 86% of the total tabulated crime complaints in the Sixth Precinct are related to instances of stealing (robbery, burglary, grand larceny, grand larceny auto, petit larceny) compared to 71% citywide. Excluding cases of petit larceny (such as a person stealing a bottle of shampoo from a drug store), crime increased 5% in 2012.
The Meatpacking District at the north end of this neighborhood, also known as the "Gansevoort Historic District", is filled with trendy boutiques and nightclubs. It is also the area's most concentrated site of grand larceny. (Grand larceny in New York is legally defined as stealing property worth $1,000 or more or property taken from the person of another without the threat of force.) In February 2013 the NYPD passed out 3,500 fliers to bars and clubs in the Sixth Precinct warning people to guard their valuables, especially at district's clubs, due to the rise in grand larceny rates. Police have said these crimes mostly happen in the Meatpacking District from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
There are two zoned elementary schools nearby: PS 3 Melser Charrette School, and PS 41 Greenwich Village School. Residents are zoned to Baruch Middle School 104. Greenwich Village High School was a private high school formerly located in the area, but later moved to SoHo.
The area is served by the M5, M8, M11, M14A, M20 New York City Bus routes and the following New York City Subway stations:14th Street–Eighth Avenue at Eighth Avenue; serving the A C E L trains
West Fourth Street–Washington Square at Sixth Avenue; serving the A B C D E F M trains
14th Street at Seventh Avenue; serving the 1 2 3 trains
Christopher Street–Sheridan Square at Seventh Avenue; serving the 1 2 trains
Houston Street at Varick Street; serving the 1 2 trains
The Citi Bike bike share program launched in the area in May 2013 with 14 bike share stations in the West Village.The Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library is at 425 Sixth Avenue, corner of West 10th Street. It was built as a courthouse from 1874 to 1877, and was designed by architect Frederick Clarke Withers of the firm of Vaux and Withers. It was turned into a library after public outcry over its planned demolition in 1958.
The High Line, now a public park, connects the historic district to Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, and the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. The elevated train tracks, mostly running parallel to Tenth Avenue, have been converted to an open greenway. The tracks, abandoned in 1980, once served the businesses in the area; the park opened in 2009.
The Hudson River Park, running from 59th Street to the Battery including most of associated piers, is being transformed into a joint city/state park with non-traditional uses.
The St. Luke in the Fields Church is an Episcopal church founded in 1820 on farmland donated by Trinity Church.
The Stonewall Inn is a gay tavern and recreational bar. It is most famous as the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which is widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States. The surrounding area is designated as the Stonewall National Monument.
The Village Vanguard is a jazz club opened on February 22, 1935, by Max Gordon. At first, it featured many forms of music, such as folk music and beat poetry, but it switched to an all-jazz format in 1957.
The Westbeth Artists Community is a nonprofit housing and commercial complex dedicated to providing affordable living and working space for artists and arts organizations. The complex is named for two of the streets that border it—West and Bethune.
The new Whitney Museum of American Art is located in the West Village. The Whitney, as it is nicknamed, was founded in 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a wealthy and prominent American socialite and art patron. Its permanent collection comprises more than 21,000 works. From 1966 to 2014, the Whitney was located on Upper East Side; it closed in October 2014 to relocate to a new building in the Meatpacking District/West Village, which opened in May 2015.
Costas Kondylis's 1 Morton Square residential development (on Morton and West Street, completed in 2004) is the residence of actors Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and of actor Daniel Radcliffe. Richard Meier's towers at 173 Perry Street, 176 Perry Street, and 165 Charles Street are home to actors Jim Carrey, Hugh Jackman, and Nicole Kidman. Other notable actors who currently or formerly resided in the neighborhood include Matthew Broderick, Andy Samberg, Claire Danes, Will Ferrell, Jill Hennessy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Seth Meyers, Julianne Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Liv Tyler, Saoirse Ronan, Karlie Kloss, and Bianca Brigitte Van Damme.