The Case for Downtown
By Marilyn La Jeunesse
Upper Manhattan has a reputation as an idyllic wonderland, with glittering window displays down Fifth Avenue and spacious apartments overlooking Central Park. But here’s some bad news: this part of town is just the sleepy, dull upstairs neighbor of lower Manhattan.
The heart and soul of New York City lies below 14th Street. Down here, the city comes alive with the sound of bluegrass in Washington Square Park and performance art near the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s undeniable that this area has an irresistible charm that can’t be found elsewhere in the city.
From walking through movie sets to stumbling upon speakeasies hidden behind old bank doors, you never know what a day in lower Manhattan might bring. Lower Manhattan is the reason the Big Apple is known worldwide as the city that never sleeps -- and let’s be honest, no one’s staying up past midnight above 14th Street.
To those upper Manhattanites pining over the glamour of living above 57th Street, you can keep your tree-lined avenues and snoozing cultural institutions. Lower Manhattan, with its red brick tenements and aged fire escapes, is home to an ever-growing number of bars, restaurants, comedy cellars, art galleries, and music venues.
Speaking of music, some of the best bands from the ‘70s launched their careers in Lower Manhattan. Perhaps most famously, the Ramones had their debut performance at CBGB in the Bowery in 1974. This famed location also helped bring Blondie, Talking Heads, and Patti Smith to fame. Today, venues like Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and Irving Plaza continue to encourage young artists to perform on their stages, keeping Lower Manhattan’s edgy musical history alive.