By  on May 11, 2009

A Manhattan neighborhood can go from outré to everyday in a New York minute. It happened to the Meatpacking District and Hell’s Kitchen, and in 1972 it started happening to the East Village. Though some promises of the day (like the opening of the Second Avenue subway by 1977) never materialized, the area definitely experienced some growing pains. WWD’s reporters were there to watch it happen.

Today, gentrification is one of the longest four-letter words in the book. But in the Seventies, people approached the “revitalization” of the East Village as an opportunity to make the community their own. Store owners had long complained of losing money as they were forced to close stores earlier and earlier due to crime. “As soon as it gets dark, there’s no one around,” said Bruce Conley of East River Leathers. “People are afraid.” So on Ninth Street between First and Second avenues, a group of local merchants embraced the idea of welcoming a new, richer clientele. Slowly, they began to set themselves apart as an example of the “new” East Village. “There’s a lot of chic here,” said Beverly Miller, who ran two shops on the strip. But, still putting community first, store owners wanted to avoid the “knickknacks and tchotchkes” image of their retail counterparts in popular Greenwich Village. “We don’t want that crafty feeling,” she added.

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