The New York Public Library is currently putting together a map of New York City neighborhoods represented in the pages of our favorite books. Novels set in the five boroughs are added to the map as readers suggest them, along with nearby landmarks and attractions so you can get your literary bearings. Currently most of the listed titles in are in Manhattan (“American Psycho” in the Financial District, “Catcher in the Rye” in Central Park, to name just a few); Team Brooklyn is looking sparse (Hello? Paul Auster?), and The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island need you!
The ‘American Dream’ may have dominated the last few decades, causing a mass exodus to the suburbs, but today’s families are reversing the trend and turning their attention back to the city. The reasons are many: An appreciation for cultural offerings, the camaraderie and creative cross-pollination of networks of colleagues, friends and family, the convenience of being able to walk or bike to school, work or child care without a long commute—just to name a few. New York City has always been a haven for the forward-thinking, albeit a challenging one. And its newly-”discovered” outer boroughs as well as an unprecedentedly low crime rate have made the city a prime choice for family living.
But what is it about those city kids—the ones with parents who planned from the start to raise their kids in a non-stop urban environment? We interrupted the busy schedules of five families currently raising school-age (or soon-to-be) children in New York City’s many diverse and multifaceted neighborhoods to get some insight about why they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Between hyper-developed hotspots, main drags in up-and-comers, big-ticket townhouse enclaves, and those genuinely avoidable areas, there can often be found a city’s “just-right” zones. Free from corner menace, sticker shock and boom-time developer schlock, these special spots often span only a few blocks in each direction and are close enough to the center of their ‘cool destination’ nabes to legitimately bear their names. They aren’t commonly known, and are best found by pounding the pavement, but these micro-neighborhoods often hide within them real estate gems coupled with perfectly offbeat vibes—you just have to be willing to do a little legwork. But when you do find them, don’t sleep on them… Winners like the Columbia Street Waterfront District were once Goldilocks blocks.
Today we’ll look at a unique 7th Street stretch hidden in Alphabet City.
From “coffices” to lab-like minimalist gourmet coffee meccas to cozy neighborhood hangouts, neighborhood cafes are a fine example of the essential “third place” mentioned in discussions of community dynamics: that place, neither work nor home, where regulars gather and everyone’s welcome.
Along with yoga studios, art galleries, community gardens, vintage clothing shops, restaurants with pedigreed owners and adventurous menus and, some say, a change in the offerings on local grocery shelves, cafes are often the earliest sign of neighborhood change. The neighborhood cafe serves as a testing ground for community cohesiveness while adventurous entrepreneurs test the still-unfamiliar waters around them. Beyond the literal gesture of offering sustenance, cafes provide a place where you can actually see who your neighbors are and appreciate the fact that at least some of them are willing to make an investment locally.