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Meet 6th Street

Stretching all the way from Robert Moses’s East River Park to the short off-the-grid Taras Shevchenko Place (named for the Ukrainian poet) and Cooper Square just beyond, 6th Street is filled with history from beginning to end. I could not help but think, as I walked this side street, that compared to others that are experiencing so much change in the East Village, 6th Street is attempting to hold true to its simple, old-fashioned roots. Speaking with a contractor renovating the Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, where the hundred year old building will now house the congregation as well as several apartments while also preserving its historical landmark status, he emphasized the community’s commitment to maintaining their little street’s identity as a classic New York City side street.  With its understated, traditional storefronts, 6th Street is a refreshing pause in a city constantly transforming.

And history does, indeed, abound, highlighted by the beautiful Ukrainian Museum and some rich East Village heritage. Amidst all this, who would have thought 6th Street could simultaneously lay claim to a plethora of New York’s best nights out? “The Land of the Bars,” as I have taken to calling it, includes several establishments from DeRossi Global, including their beloved and iconic Death and Company, specialty bitters at Amor Y Amargo, and the tequila bar Mayahuel.

Of course, there are a good number of smaller, lively bars and neighborhood spots located here that are bursting with their own personalities. A favorite of ours is Grape and Grain. 6th Street can also satisfy any craving for Indian spice on what is referred to as “Curry Row,” a strip of 6th where the air is permeated with the spices of a well-seasoned meal. We must give a shout out to all of the restaurants catering to vegetarians, including the delightful Caravan of Dreams, one of New York’s most classic vegetarian favorites.

Wandering around, I began to appreciate the way 6th Street quietly reflects New York City’s past. Several notable figures have left their mark on this side street. For example, social reformer Jacob Riis, whose work exposed the harsh realities of tenement living in the 1800’s, was honored with a public housing complex between Avenue D and the FDR Drive. Across the street, Lillian Wald Houses bear the name of a woman whose legacy of humanitarian efforts as a nurse to poor immigrant families on the Lower East Side lives on. Even architect Calvert Vaux left his mark on 6th Street. No. 630, once a magnificent building that the famed co-designer of Central Park built in 1890 to house the Children’s Aid Society’s programs, is today, after recent renovations, an apartment complex for limited-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers.

Loisaida Avenue, commonly known as Avenue C, intersects 6th Street. Named in recognition of the area’s large Puerto Rican population, Loisaida pays homage to those who still consider this part of the East Village to actually be the Lower East Side. The Sixth Street Community Center is a wonderful example of this neighborhood’s emphasis on community, as it is committed to serving the people of Loisaida through its sustainable agriculture programs, career development services, and tenants rights and entitlements advocacy.

In addition to the bars and restaurants, we would be remiss in not mentioning 6th Street’s tranquil gems; Creative Little Garden and 6 B/C Botanical Garden invite passersby to recognize a community’s passion for the outdoors. Although it might be just a matter of time before 6th Street is forced to change its understated ways and join the East Village’s modernization, I am hopeful that these gardens will continue to flourish. Back in 2012, I saw some transformations starting to occur, as exemplified by a building’s demolition reportedly spearheaded by a famous actor. Fortunately, I can say that I explored this side street, for the first time, before it hopped on the gentrification train.

Read more about every place on 6th Street!