Starting at Abingdon Square (Hudson and 12th St.) and ending at the Bowery, Bleecker Street meanders along in defiance of New York's grid system through some of the city's most colorful neighborhoods. Not so long ago as you walked south from the North West village down to the gritty Bowery, the street told the stories of the inhabitants of those neighborhoods by the businesses and institutions along the way.
In the fashionable West Village where the streets are lined Georgian with brick townhouses, Bleecker Street played host to dusty antique shops, rare book stores and art galleries. Near the intersection of Christopher Street, an "apothecary" still stands that has served the neighborhood through the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic losing many of its customers to the disease over the years. A little further down another shop that was once the Army/Navy Surplus store dressed gay men in faux-military gear as warriors against the plague.
On the south side of Seventh Avenue as you approached Carmine Street, suddenly a glut of Italian Bakeries with fancy cookies and cannoli in the windows appear reflecting the Italian American enclave centered around that intersection. On the corner of Carmine Street is Our Lady of Pompeii, a mostly Italian Catholic congregation where my father used to attend dances in the church basement as a teenage immigrant.
Past Sixth Avenue the unmistakable energy of student life becomes apparent as Bleecker Street becomes part of the NYU campus. As you proceed east to the Bowery, you'll find dark bars that served as venues for alternative bands and overflowed with carousers till the wee hours of the morning.
Today, the section of Bleecker Street north of Christopher is lined with high-priced designer boutiques like the ones pictured above. Even though I hate to admit it, the ever increasing real estate prices and these business reflect the changing face of Bleecker street and the inhabitants of the neighborhood where celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Mathew Broderick and Tim Gunn call home. One can even spot "Sex and the City" walking tours traipsing past Magnolia Bakery every day.
Oh, well. There goes the neighborhood.