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When I first found my apartment just east of Union Square, I was faced with the dilemma that any 25-year-old East Village-devotee would have: Was I prepared to live north of 14th Street? The apartment itself was perfect—a large and airy one-bedroom big enough to be a two-bedroom—and in terms of convenience, the Union Square area is hard to beat.
Situated at the convergence of all Villages, it’s within walking distance of many major subway lines, supermarkets, chain stores and concert venues. (I work in the music business, so the latter was important to me.)
Unfortunately, it’s not just local residents who are aware of this appeal. Union Square, particularly on weekends or days when there is a farmers’ market, protest or publicity stunt (so, approximately 355 days of the year), is a circus. The usual mix of people includes sports bros getting rowdy in the neighborhood’s bars, skaters, junkies (yes, they do still exist in this city), and patrons of Babies ‘R’ Us.
It’s nearly impossible to cross the park without fighting a crowd. The activity isn’t limited to daytime, either. Because Union Square serves as a sort of transportation hub for downtown Manhattan and Williamsburg, there is a constant flow of people—many of them drunk—at all hours.
I’ve been living in this spot for 10 years, and the old dilemma—is there life above 14th Street?—has changed. I’m now faced with the duality of a neighborhood that is as busy as it is convenient. Is it worth putting up with the chaos for the sake of convenient location? Do I ignore my heightened intolerance of slow-moving crowds because I can reach nearly every point of interest in Manhattan in less than 30 minutes? I’m not sure yet.
Whenever I return to my original post-college haunts (the surprisingly mellower Avenues A and B) or visit my childhood neighborhood on the Upper West Side, I am tempted to relocate. The former is enticing because it serves my desires for cheap(er) eats and proximity to music-related nightlife, but the latter caters to a newly-found maturity and desire for relative quiet.
For now, I roll with it. I sidestep the junkies keeled over in Starbucks. I blaze a trail through the hordes of organic produce aficionados at the farmers market. I find occasional peace on the quiet stretch of Irving Place. I try to keep a positive outlook.
And then they open a Nordstrom Rack.
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