Manhattan’s East Village was once part of the larger Lower East Side neighborhood. It began to distinguish itself from that community in the 1960s. Musician, artists, hippies and students forged this unique identity and culture when they moved to the area for the less expensive rents. Building upon the foundation laid by beatniks who lived in the neighborhood during the 1950s, the East Village has become a center of the city’s counterculture. It’s considered home to many avant-garde artistic movements as well as being the birthplace of punk rock. Its local clubs were the launching pad for iconic acts, such as the Ramones, the Beastie Boys and Breakfast Club, which at one time featured Madonna on drums. Bordered by Stuyvesant Town, Greenwich Village and Gramercy Park, the East Village contains the smaller, well-known neighborhoods of the Bowery and Alphabet City.
The name East Village was coined in the mid-1960s to differentiate the neighborhood of artists and musicians from the working-class tenements prevalent in the remainder of the Lower East Side. The musical Rent is based upon life in the neighborhood during the 1990s. Although it’s still known as a diverse community with an edgy artistic sensibility and vibrant night life, the East Village is beginning to change. As more affluent people move into the neighborhood, lower income residents are leaving as the area experiences gentrification.