Volume 17 • Issue 30 | Dec. 17 - 23, 2004

East Village is ranked second-best neighborhood

By Divya Watal

New York City’s East Village is the second-best neighborhood in North America, after Granville Island in Vancouver, Canada, according to a New York-based nonprofit organization.

Project for Public Spaces, a 30-year-old organization dedicated to sustaining civic areas and improving communities around the world, recently released a report on the top 20 neighborhoods and districts in North America. Among the top 10 neighborhoods, five were in the U.S. — the East Village competed against North Beach, San Francisco; Camden, Maine; Rittenhouse Sq., Philadelphia; and Fells Point, Baltimore.

The top 20 list included three neighborhoods in Canada, one in Mexico and one in Puerto Rico.

“It’s a subjective list,” said Shin-pei Tsay, director of marketing and communications for P.P.S. “It’s based on what people think makes a good neighborhood. It’s not just about the kind of space people have but also about how they use that space, how they engage in their communities.”

Employees at P.P.S, Tsay explained, compiled the list after traveling extensively throughout North America, with the president, Fred Kent, having traveled the most.

“It was a collective vision,” she said. “We all took loads of images to document neighborhoods, and we got to know people in those neighborhoods.”

The organization encourages its 25 employees to be “active observers” while they are traveling, whether it is for work or pleasure, Tsay said. As for the selection of the East Village, she added, it was an obvious one, considering it was near the organization’s offices.

“We were always aware of the East Village because we spent a lot of time there,” Tsay said, adding that P.P.S. will be closer to the neighborhood after shifting its home from the West Village to Broadway and Fourth St.

There are infinite factors that work together to create a good neighborhood, Tsay said. The East Village has so many things to do, people to watch, places to see — it’s a hotbed of activities, and it’s welcoming at the same time.

“People gravitate toward St. Mark’s Pl., for instance. It’s overrun by tourists, which may not be so nice for residents, but it shows how popular it is,” she said.

A handful of East Village merchants and residents interviewed couldn’t stop extolling their neighborhood. Nearly all of them said it is “the best place to live” because there is a sense of community — everyone knows everyone else — and it has a friendly, cozy atmosphere.

“I’m surprised it’s not the best on the list,” said Jack Lebewohl, owner of the 2nd Avenue Deli and longtime East Village resident, summing up the collective attitude of those interviewed.

P.P.S. also compiles lists of the best marketplaces, main streets, parks and civic squares, among other public spaces. This was the first time it brought out the top 20 neighborhoods list, but Tsay said the list would be updated annually because of the positive response it received.

Along with the top 20 neighborhoods in North America, P.P.S. also released a list of international neighborhoods. The top five on this list were: Arbat St., Moscow; Asafra Beach, Alexandria, Egypt; Downtown Christchurch, New Zealand; Fez Souk, Fez, Morocco; and Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

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