Like pretty much anyone who grew up in the 1990s, Feng and I watched the sitcom Friends that is set in Greenwich Village, “The Village”, an upper class residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan. While we didn’t rush there to spot Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Monica’s apartment building—come on, this is like soo last century!—we were still curious to check out the neighborhood.
We started the morning in Washington Square Park, a landmark in Greenwich Village. We had heard about the park being “a hub for politics and culture” but we were slightly disappointed: the park was much smaller than we had expected and nothing special was going on. Don’t get me wrong, there were musicians, singers and chess players—a few opportunities for candid pics, but nothing out of the ordinary. Parks in China are more fun, with old people doing tai-chi and walking their birds in a cage!
We walked around in the neighborhood a bit. It was mostly residential and while I’m sure it’s a very nice (and expensive) community to live in, the Village didn’t really appeal to me as a tourist. In a way, it reminded me of the Glebe in Ottawa or Kensington Market in Toronto: expensive “hippie chic” and sometimes slightly pretentious.
The most interesting thing we saw around was a game of stickball, a street game related to baseball. That was kind of unique!
In the evening, we ended up in Greenwich Village again to find a bite to eat. We had started to look for a restaurant in the neighborhood we were in… until we realized that it was a bit posher than we liked. No wonder, we later noticed we were on Park Avenue, where restaurants tend to be wine bars with fancy-dressed French waiters! So we walked back to the Village, where we figured food would be cheaper and restaurants more relaxed.
Turned out that the Village is much livelier at night, and we had a great time. The neighborhood caters to NYU students and they are tons of cheap eats, including a number of Japanese and Korean restaurants.
One thing I couldn’t help wondering though, is how NYU students (or anyone, really!) can afford to live in the Village. We checked out a few ads just out of curiosity and the average rent seemed to be around $2,700 – 3,500 a month for a simple apartment. This is NYC, I’m not surprised… yet who makes enough to pay that much in rent and cover living expenses? Sure, there are bankers, traders, doctors, lawyers, etc. who make a very comfortable wage, but there are also a lot of people working in the service industry, and it’s not like the minimum wage in NYC is $50 an hour!
I don’t understand real estate, I really don’t.
You can see the set of pictures taken in the U.S.A. on Flickr.