A major change occurred in Manhattan in the 1950s. Amid an artistic renaissance led by the Beats, the East Village seceded from the Lower East Side to become its own entity. Throughout its storied history, the neighborhood has been the birthplace of punk rock and the Nuyorican literary movement and has served as host to the Off-Broadway theatres and poetry venues. Here are the best things to do in New York’s East Village neighborhood to discover a bit of the storied neighborhood’s history as well as what still makes it one of the city’s most exciting nabes.
It’s always heartening to see so many New Yorkers reading their paperbacks on public transit. Mast Books is one of the dozens of stores that cater to the literary cognoscenti by carving out a niche carrying rare titles in art, poetry and cinema. The curation is what sets Mast apart from the herd. Every store carries the new Jia Tolentino, but it’s special stumbling across a hand selected early edition of a Patti Smith chapbook or limited printing of a modern design tome.
Navigating the subways, catching a reservation during rush-hour, standing on your feet for hours in the Met – a trip to New York is not exactly a vacation. That said, The Russian & Turkish Baths on East 10th Street are the perfect place to unwind, have a schvitz and regroup so you’re ready for your next adventure. Opened in 1892, the bathhouse – where the likes of Frank Sinatra and John Belushi could be spotted – has an old-world charm. Opened originally to serve as 19th-century resource for overcrowded immigrant communities before hot water was available in most homes, today the baths offer a bevy of modern services, from a fragrant essential oils wash to Swedish massages.
Anyone who has seen The Godfather knows about New York’s storied history as a mafioso meeting point.The Museum of the American Gangster, opened in 2010, was founded to explore the history of organized crime and preserve documents associated with the Prohibition Era. Appropriately housed in a former speakeasy, in a neighborhood where notorious gangsters Al Capone, “Lucky Luciano” and John Gotti once walked the streets, the museum features artifacts such as John Dillinger’s death masks, seven .45-caliber bullets from the St Valentine’s Day Massacre and a shell casing recovered from the car in which Bonnie and Clyde’s Clyde Barrow was shot to death.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Michael Manukian.