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Alphabet City, Manhattan, 10030



Alphabet City is a neighborhood located within the East Village in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is also known as Loisaida, a Spanglish adaptation of 'Lower East Side'. Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names. It is bordered by Houston Street to the south and by 14th Street to the north, along the traditional northern border of the East Village and south of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. Some famous landmarks include Tompkins Square Park and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The neighborhood has a long history, serving as a cultural centre and ethnic enclave for Manhattan's German, Hispanic, and Jewish populations.


Alphabet City is located in New York's 12th and 14th congressional districts, the New York State Assembly's 64th and 74th districts, the New York State Senate's 25th district, and New York City Council's 2nd district. It is represented by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, State Senator Dan Squadron, Assemblymen Sheldon Silver and Brian Kavanagh, and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez. The neighbourhood is regulated by Manhattan Community Board 3. The neighborhood lies within the New York Police Department's 9th precinct, and its schools fall within Manhattan's 1st school district. If the neighborhood is considered, as according to some definitions, to extend to 23rd Street as its northern boundary, it also encompasses parts of the New York State Senate's 29th district (represented by State Senator Thomas Duane), New York City Council's 4th district (represented by Daniel Garodnick), and Manhattan Community Board 6.




Like many other neighborhoods on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Alphabet City has been home to a succession of immigrant groups over the years. By the 1840s and 1850s, much of present-day Alphabet City had become known as "Kleindeutschland" or "Little Germany"; in the mid-19th century, many[who?] claimed New York to be the third-largest German-speaking city in the world, after Berlin and Vienna, with most of those German speakers residing in and around Alphabet City. In fact, Kleindeutschland is considered to have been the second substantial non-Anglophone urban ethnic enclave in United States history, after Germantown in Philadelphia.


By the 1880s, most Germans were moving out of Kleindeutschland and relocating Uptown, to the Yorkville section of the Upper East Side. Eastern Europeans replaced Germans as the dominant ethnic group in Alphabet City during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time the area was considered part of the Lower East Side, and became home to Eastern European Jews, Irish, and Italian immigrants. It consisted of tenement housing with no running water, and the primary bathing location for residents in the northern half of the area was the Asser Levy bath house on 23rd Street and Avenue C, north of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town. During this time it was also the red light district of Manhattan and one of the worst slums in the city.




By the turn of the century, Alphabet City was part of the East Village, and the most densely populated part of New York City. This density was partially a result of the area's proximity to the City's garment factories, which were the major source of employment for newly arrived immigrants. After the construction of the subway system, workers were able to relocate to other parts of the city that were previously too remote, such as the Bronx, and Alphabet City's population decreased dramatically.


By the middle of the 20th century, Alphabet City was again in transition, as thousands of Puerto Ricans began to settle in the neighborhood. By the 1960s and '70s, what was once Kleindeutschland and the red light district had evolved into "Loisaida" ("Spanglish" for "Lower East Side"). Alphabet City became an important site for the development and strengthening of Puerto Rican cultural identity in New York (see the Nuyorican Movement). A number of important Nuyorican intellectuals, poets and artists called Loisaida home during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, including Miguel Algarín and Miguel Piñero.


During the 1980s, Alphabet City was home to an eclectic mix of Puerto Rican and African American families living alongside struggling artists and musicians (who were mostly young and white). Attracted by the Nuyorican movement, low rents, and creative atmosphere, Alphabet City attracted a growing bohemian population. At one time it was home to many of the first graffiti writers, b-boys, rappers, and DJs. The area also had high levels of illegal drug activity and violent crime. The Broadway musical Rent portrays some of the positive and negative aspects of this time and place.


In August 1988, a riot erupted in Tompkins Square Park when anarchists and homeless activists from outside the neighborhood began throwing M-80s and rocks at police who had arrived to evict a large encampment of homeless people from the park. The police had been sent there to enforce a curfew enacted in response to over a decade of complaints from residents about the round-the-clock lawlessness and noise emanating from the park. The police showed little restraint, with several demonstrators injured, and much ensuing public disapproval. The rioters and their sympathizers refer to it as the Tompkins Square Park Police Riot while the police have mostly referred to it as the Tompkins Square Park Riot.




Alphabet City was affected by the widespread, controversial gentrification of New York in the 1990s. Multiple factors resulted in lower crime rates and higher rents in Manhattan in general, and Alphabet City in particular. Avenues A through D became distinctly less bohemian in the 21st century than they had been in earlier decades. Apartments have been renovated and formerly abandoned storefronts are now bustling with new restaurants, nightclubs and retail establishments.


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