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East Village Edges Out Williamsburg for Health Nuts

By Amy Zimmer | June 12, 2013 7:12am
 DNAinfo is looking at the East Village versus Williamsburg as part of a series on heatlhy neighborhoods.
East Village Versus Williamsburg
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NEW YORK CITY — Picking a neighborhood to call home doesn't just come down to finding the right apartment. It's also about how shops and street life shape one's lifestyle. As New Yorkers have become increasingly health-centric, DNAinfo New York is looking at how neighborhoods stack up with health-conscious options.

The East Village vs. Williamsburg

After two years of living in Williamsburg, Christina Medina — a Reiki healer-turned-real estate saleswoman who eats raw vegan food in spring and summer and converts to cooked vegan food in the fall and winter, when it's colder — is angling to move back to the East Village when her lease is up in July.

"A lot of my blossoming happened when I was in the East Village. I was a much healthier version of myself because of living there," Medina, 39, of Citi Habitats, who had lived in the East Village when she moved from Kansas City six years ago. "Since moving out of my old neighborhood I make more excuses for eating things that are not raw or vegan sometimes."

Both neighborhoods are big for biking.

In Williamsburg, for instance, the bike lane along Kent Avenue is a main artery for getting around, and with businesses like Marlow & Sons and Williamsburg Cinemas planning to convert parking spots for cars into places to lock up bikes, the area is catering to its cycling-centric population.

But the East Village — where Mud Coffee on East 9th Street substituted a car parking spot with bike parking — has perhaps to the highest concentration of pro-bike businesses. More than 150 shops, galleries, theaters and cultural centers have joined Transportation Alternatives' "East Village and Lower East Side Bike Friendly Business District," offering discounts to customers who arrive by bike and educating customers and their cycling workers about street safety.

"It is a neighborhood that has a pretty substantial bike network," said Caroline Samponaro, TA's senior director of campaigns and organizing. "With the addition of First and Second Avenue you have a complete network, which is like advertising that you can get around in a healthy way."

A survey TA conducted last year found that 45 percent of East Village women who responded listed bicycling as their usual mode of transportation compared to between 15 to 35 percent citywide. Women are more inclined to bike when there are protected lanes than their male counterparts, the survey noted.

Plus, the neighborhood is a hot spot for the city's new bike share program.

"The East Village is sort of the epicenter of the network at this point," Samponaro said. "It makes sense because it has good transit but not as you go further east."

Besides biking, the East Village is dotted with yoga and pilates studios and abounds with shops catering to eco-minded and healthy eaters.

"I know people who want to live in NoLIta or the West Village because they like the cute shops, but when food becomes a priority in your life, you look at grocery stores," Medina said.

She missed her East Village shopping sprees for organic food at the Commodities Natural Market and the juices at Liquiteria and Juice Press. She dined at the organic vegan restaurant Caravan of Dreams, devoured the market sides at Westville East and was inspired to cook after frequenting the raw vegan Quintessence.

Plus, where else can you find a place like the Molecule Water Store, on East 10th Street, which sells filtered tap water, she wondered. 

"Being vegetarian, vegan, and even raw vegan — the more people you have around you the less of a freak you feel," said Medina, who moved to Williamsburg to live with two close friends, but lamented to discover that the closest vegetarian restaurant to her had tofu-based dishes.

"If you keep track of this stuff, [tofu is] 10 years behind," she said.

Rents in both neighborhoods were comparable.

Studios in Williamsburg rented for an average of $2,652 a month in May and one-bedrooms went for $3,015 a month, compared to $2,242 for a studio in the East Village and $3,126 for a one-bedroom, according to a report from MNS real estate firm.