One of the mornings while we were in New York, we went to get a bagel at a place by Penn Station that got extremely good reviews. It was very busy, but we scored a table and sat down to eat. When we were nearly done, the place filled up and there weren't any other empty tables. An older man saw that there were some empty seats at our table, and asked if we would mind if he and his son sat at our table. We were about to leave anyways, so we said of course. They joined us, and quickly began talking away (and I work in a call center so I'm exposed to all the accents of people across the country. These two guys had that thick NEW YORK accent that almost sounds like a silly stereotype when it's used by characters in movies). But somehow, we all started to talking to each other and they spent a good twenty minutes talking to us about their favorite pizza places in New York.
The older man also began telling us his life story, about how he had worked overseeing construction jobs all over New York City. He claimed to have helped build Trump Tower and said he was close friends with Donald Trump. When he saw our negative reaction to that he quickly added "but I think he's an idiot!" He also said that he never had any problems with Trump not paying his bills to his company, since he was affiliated with the unions and Trump knew well enough to leave the unions alone. He added a few other things, about how he was a great photographer but unfortunately Hurricane Sandy brought the ocean into his house and the waves carried away all of his negatives.
We needed to leave, so he shook our hands and told us his name. And so of course, as soon as we left we googled him to see if any of his claims were actually true. We were a little shocked to see that they were, and that he was actually connected to the mob. He had actually been arrested for extortion, and also his brother had been brutally murdered by another mobster. Before we left, he told us: "There are a lot of good people in New York, and a lot of very bad people." We wondered where exactly he fit on that scale. On the plus side, he did give us some good recommendations for pizza.
We had lunch at one of the places that he recommended, Rubirosa Ristorante. It was really quite good, and not just because it was suggested by an actual mobster. After lunch, we walked over to Greenwich Village to have a look around. The village was once an actual old village, established separately from New York City way back in the 1600s. The city eventually grew up and around Greenwich Village, which would retain some of its charm and independence from the metropolis that surrounded it. In modern times, Greenwich Village became a haven for artists and Bohemians, and became the birthplace for the modern LGBTQ movement.
We first headed to Washington Square Park, which was crowded with people and tourists. The park dates back to 1871, on land that used to be a pauper's cemetery for unknown and indigent people and then for victims of a yellow fever epidemic. You could never guess that the park, with it's fountain and trees and memorial arch, sits atop the remains of about 20,000 people in graves dating back to 1799.
The park is dominated by a large triumphal arch dedicated to George Washington. The arch was built in 1892 and commemorates the centennial of Washington's inauguration as the first President in 1789.
The park was a perfect place for people watching. There was a film crew there, filming a woman in different places in the park. They had her walk through the crowds several times. Then she sat perched on a concrete bench reading a book, while a guy danced a few feet away for money. There were all sorts of people there, but the biggest crowd was congregated by the arch to watch a guy play the piano.
This tree was growing in the park, but was dwarfed by the tall buildings surrounding it. Real estate now in Greenwich Village is incredibly expensive. The four zip codes that encompass Greenwich Village were all ranked in the top ten zip codes with the most expensive housing prices in the country.
We walked by a few highlights in Greenwich Village, including The Stonewall Inn (which wasn't open yet, or else we would have gotten drinks there). We then walked a a few blocks over to see the apartment building that was used for the exterior shots for Friends. It looked a lot smaller in person. We took a few pictures before heading off to do some more sightseeing in Lower Manhattan.