By Emily Roemer
What is privilege as it pertains to a village, you may ask? Let me explain. By definition, “vil·lage priv·i·lege” is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to inhabitants of a particular set of streets in lower Manhattan.
Sure, a glass of wine might be double (or triple) the cost it would be a few avenues away, and the rent per square foot is an embarrassing and hilarious topic to my friends back home. Nevertheless, the West Village is arguably the most ideal place to live in the city, if not the world.
I moved here a little over a year ago from a somewhat small town in the south. And now here I am—stuck in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city in an apartment I nicknamed “the dollhouse” because of its size. It is less than 500 square feet, and I share it. But I digress…I’m “stuck” here because of how in love I feel with the West Village’s allure and its dwellers.
A great example of this happened a few months ago. I met a local man and we struck up a conversation about his history in the Village. Turns out, he’s lived here for over forty-five years and hasn’t been above 14th street in four years! He said candidly, “I don’t want to get a nosebleed going that far uptown.” At the time, I had not lived here long enough to understand; but I thought to myself, “Wow—if that isn’t neighborhood loyalty, I’m not sure what is.”
I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and it was really nice, not “I never want to leave” nice, but comfortable and happy. I took for granted the green grass, slow mornings, driving with my windows rolled down, seemingly unlimited space, and proximity to my loved ones.
Needless to say, moving here was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. The apartment search alone was a nightmare. Adjusting to the loud subway, the hustling people everywhere, being so far away from my siblings, and the winter were all challenges. The snow was especially of concern, considering that on Christmas day in my hometown last year it was 75 degrees and sunny. Yet, the day I moved in and found my place here, I knew this neighborhood and I were going to be in a committed relationship for the long run.
Moving to the West Village reminded me a little bit of going to summer camp for the first time. Everything is new, and extremely convenient. So there is a gym directly across the street from my bedroom? Check. A handful of parks in which to longingly gaze at other peoples “designer” dogs, a place for high tea and long afternoons next door, and cobblestone streets? Check, check, and check. Was this…Utopia? I thought to myself.
After a year of living here I can say confidently that living in the West Village is like joining the coolest club. I love everything about it, but here is my short list:
1. The quiet streets. Something I thought I was kissing goodbye when I moved to NYC, the West Village allows for quiet strolls down some of the most beautiful streets.
2. Exceedingly friendly and interesting people. Southern hospitality is so real at home, and upon moving here I thought it would be a big culture shock to not have that. But locals have proved me wrong from day one. This is a place that you can, and are encouraged to be, whoever you want to be.
3. The Corner Bistro. The cash-only burger joint that seems like it is straight out of a 1980s movie. I walk in there feeling nostalgic for a time during which I wasn’t even alive. And that makes me feel something.
4. My bodega. Bethel Gourmet Food is run by a married couple who could not be nicer. They special-order my favorite jasmine tea and always have fresh flowers at a reasonable price, not to mention—they are lovely.
5. WestView News. The first month I was here the paper was delivered to my building and I immediately felt like I was part of something. I felt a great sense of community. Leafing through the events in the calendar section, the homages to restaurants that were closing their doors, and learning about the rich history of my neighborhood made life just that much sweeter.
I love New York City, but I really love the West Village.
Signed A West Villager, feeling so privileged to live in this village.