There was a time when downtown Bohemians did not set foot above 14th Street and uptown bourgeois considered anything south of Saks alien territory. —Bob Colacello (writer, former editor of Interview magazine)

My whole adult life I have only lived uptown. I have filmed downtown because it’s very beautiful but always went home to sleep uptown. —Woody Allen (filmmaker)

People thought I was crazy to move to the Meatpacking District. —Diane von Furstenberg (designer)

If uptown is the city’s day-to-day reality, then downtown is the dream of the city. It’s not always a good thing, but what makes a neighborhood downtown is that it’s a purely aspirational place. —Mary Boone (art dealer, gallerist)

You might be lured in by the Beat Generation, drawn to La Mama for some experimental theater, or [to] Blue Note or Village Vanguard [for jazz]. That was the downtown scene of yesteryear, the one we all long for and tell stories about. —Sandra Bernhard (actress)

The Village Vanguard is my favorite music venue of all time—the delights to be enjoyed down those steps are breathtaking. —Randall Poster (music supervisor)

In the 80s, when I was in college in New Haven, my cool brother Danny lived in the East Village. Danny was supposed to be going to N.Y.U. business school, but, unbeknownst to my father, he had withdrawn and was using his tuition as backing for a film he was producing, the No Wave cinema classic The Way It Is. So this was my introduction to the East Village: when it was at its coolest, full of artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians; punks, and parties. —Nancy Jo Sales (journalist, author)

The daily shopping list in downtown New York [in the 70s and 80s] was coffee at Gem’s Spa, egg cream at Dave’s Luncheonette, and heroine at Avenue C and First Street. —Eric Goode (founder of Area nightclub, hotelier)

I live in Tribeca and have lived in Tribeca for seven years. But it’s the ghost of Tribeca—Tribeca in the 80s—that I’m always looking for. Sometimes I find it in interviews. A few years ago … I spoke to a woman named Pigeon O’Brien. Pigeon was telling me about a killer mid-80s nightclub—Area, on Hudson, a stone’s throw from my sons’ preschool which blends the Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies of early childhood education, and 50 feet from the coffee shop where I order a decaf soy latte every morning. I asked her what Tribeca was like in 1984. She was quiet for a beat, then said, “Let me put it this way: You could buy coke in Tribeca, but not a Coke.” Oh, for the good old bad old days! —Lili Anolik (writer)

I harbor a deep affection for [the Village’s] bohemian past, even if my fellow residents are now hedge-funders and bankers. But these old streets, their funny names, the cobblestones, the quirky architecture, make this a hood like no other, where I can still get a coffee and dream I am sharing my table with Emma Goldman and Dave Van Ronk. —Lynn Yaeger (fashion editor)

Market forces are always trying to ruin N.Y.C., homogenize her streets with the same corporate retailers on West Fourth as you have now in the Marais in Paris or Clerkenwell in London, wherever.... So maybe it’s the quality of her ghosts and her artists that make downtown still viable—we have the ghosts of Lou Reed and Florent downtown, don’t we? —Jon Robin Baitz (playwright, screenwriter)

If downtown New York was a person it would be Lou Reed. —James Jebbia (founder of Supreme)

Downtown has always been the creative hub of the city. It’s what attracted [Robert De Niro] and me to Tribeca more than 20 years ago, and it’s what keeps us here. —Jane Rosenthal (producer, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival)

I’ve been in the Village for decades, and as much as it has changed, one thing remains the same: the artists really make up the neighborhood. —Donna Karan (designer)

A downtown neighborhood throws artistry, spontaneity, and playfulness together. —Fabien Baron (creative director)

The “downtown neighborhood,” more than a Zip Code, is a state of mind … and in this post-pandemic moment, might encompass an awful lot of New York. (Even Brooklyn!) —Garth Risk Hallberg (author of City on Fire)

What makes a downtown neighborhood is irrepressible creativity, diversity, and affordability, which is why I think of Hell’s Kitchen as a downtown neighborhood, even though it’s uptown. —Michael Musto (writer)

A neighborhood represents rich cultural and ethnic diversity. —Debbie Harry (musician, lead singer of Blondie)

The word downtown makes me think of that beautiful barbed phrase “open city”: the protected zone that sometimes blooms amid conditions of imminent peril. Where the old order breaks down and the new one hasn’t ossified, interesting things can still happen. —Garth Risk Hallberg

Downtown is where you can make yourself into anything you want to be. —Patti Astor (actress, gallerist)

For the last several centuries, I believe, downtown, pound for pound, has contributed more to the world’s economy and culture than any other place in the world.… It has always punched above its weight. —Sean MacPherson (hotelier behind the Bowery Hotel, the Chelsea Hotel, the Jane Hotel, and others; restaurateur; co-owner of Waverly Inn)

Downtown is the heartbeat of the city, its lifeblood. —Amy Sacco (nightlife impresario)

It is a mecca for the young and creative. —Patricia Field (costume designer for Sex and the City)

Downtown is where you feel the freeing vibration of striving, creating, hustling, and questioning. It’s a recipe of grit, beauty, and difference. —Niki Russ Federman (fourth-generation co-owner of Russ & Daughters)

Caffe Borgia, at MacDougal Street and Bleecker Street, photographed by Fred W. McDarrah in 1966.

Mostly the hoods I hung out in smelled like rotting fruit and garbage in the summer, stale beer, and burning garbage drums in the winter, surrounded by bums trying to keep warm. [A downtown neighborhood] has to have that distinct smell, good or bad, so you know exactly where you are. —Legs McNeil (journalist, author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk)

If you haven’t a bodega within 100 yards of your front door, you have no neighborhood. I spent many a summer’s evening on the stoop of my apartment, staring at my bodega as it was piling up with activity—creatives bartering for one more fresh mango, a junkie skulking about wanting whatever change or scraps were lying in wait, a mother working the late-night shift while her kid was watching a half-broken portable TV instead of sleeping at home in bed. —John Cale (musician, founding member of the Velvet Underground)

It needs to be different in the day and the night. The day’s gotta be when the real people come out and the night is when the creeps descend. —Eileen Myles (poet, author of Chelsea Girls)

There also has to be a fantastic nightclub filled with good-looking girls and boys, so there is something to look at other than the band. Most bands are pretty ugly. —Legs McNeil

There’s a sense of roost-ruling to all of downtown, there just is. Even if you live in a sleepy section of it. There’s that ineffable cool and homeyness here. Not one or the other. —Sloane Crosley (author)

A downtown neighborhood, to me, has a village vibe to it. You greet the same people every day, you go to the local butcher, cheese store, flower shop. —Helena Christensen (model)

There is a certain recipe—a precise ratio of leashed dogs to prams to scaffolding to cobblestones; mixed with the useless horns of tunnel traffic and the low angled afternoon light sliced thin into street and sky, even and odd. —Scott Z. Burns (filmmaker, playwright)

Sidewalks are an absolute must. Tree-lined streets, too. Other ingredients: a good pharmacy, a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, a hardware store, and a grocery store of some sort. The Village used to have head shops, newsstands, and bookstores everywhere. But they’re mostly gone. A cozy, inviting bar is always welcome. —Graydon Carter (co-editor of AIR MAIL)

Ideally, you [have] shops with a history of tradition and people in those shops that you may get to know…. If one can develop small routines in one’s day to day living, one can feel like a greater part of a smaller village rather than a smaller part of a larger city. —Andrew Raffetto (third-generation co-owner of Raffetto’s pasta store)

A cozy local restaurant, friends across the street. —Laurie Anderson (musician, widow of Lou Reed)

[At a restaurant] it’s important to slide over both your MetroCard and Film Forum membership card as a means of pulling rank and evidence you’re a real New Yorker, who gets seniority for a decent table tout de suite. —Natasha Lyonne (actress)

I know if I walk out of my building without money or keys, there are places that will feed me, knowing that I will pay them back at some point. —Gina Gershon (actress)

What made and makes a downtown neighborhood are the idiosyncratic places that become personal through the people that run them and get to know you, to what they offer you to purchase that become equally personal and not mass-produced on a corporate scale. As in, a handmade product by a handmade personality! —Sante D’Orazio (photographer)

The graffiti! —Cat Marnell (writer)

The confluence of so many things: Bar Pitti next to Little Red, the New Museum next to Cafe Gitane, and Cervo’s next to Bode. —Sara Moonves (editor of W magazine)

Odeon still has a perfect martini, and Three Lives has the best booksellers in town. —Jon Robin Baitz

The right combination of young, old, friendly, and cranky. There’s news, gossip, and always someone you know to stop and talk to. —Ross Bleckner (artist)

A downtown neighborhood is all about joining the stoop party on your way home. —Donna Florio (author of Growing Up on Bank Street)

When all is said and done, when a town is stripped of its architecture and its infrastructures, of its roads and its streetlights and its parks and skyscrapers…. When all that goes, all that remains for a ’hood is a stoop and its human fabric unfolding before it. —Emanuele Della Valle (entrepreneur, neighborhood activist)

Layers. Beautiful layers of history, people, activity … connected and thriving uniquely. —Jody Williams (chef, co-owner of Via Carota, Buvette)

Perhaps it’s the smaller size of the streets, the resulting intimacy, the energy you feel, the youth or the bohemian spirit that anything is possible and anything can happen. It’s palpable. —Ian Schrager (hotelier, co-founder of Studio 54)

Fewer men in suits and women in stilettos. —Karen Cooper (director of Film Forum)

It’s hard to place downtowners…. No suits, no purses with visible brands. The stay-at-home wives wear jeans and sneakers, they aren’t adverts for their husbands’ wealth. None of the signifiers of uptown can be used to decipher passersby. Mysteries on every block. Path train or penthouse? Intellectual or structural engineer? Who knows! —Sarah McNally (owner of McNally Jackson Books)

To me, the reputation around the world of N.Y.C. being impersonal, distant, aloof, detached, and alienated is primarily due from the uptown … sorry to say! —Ian Schrager

I’ll tell you what, I lived on the Upper West Side for a decade and didn’t see a single tourist taking pictures of my street. —Sloane Crosley

After so many years of living in the West Village, a strange thing happens to me when I come back to the neighborhood after I’ve been away, driving up Sixth Avenue, past Houston Street, past the schoolyard, past the Waverly Theater, a lovely kind of déjà vu, it’s a feeling of familiarity, of comfort, of safety. —Isaac Mizrahi (designer)

I’ll not only never leave New York but will never stray too far from [Washington Square Park] my neighborhood, the place where I feel—perversely, I suppose, but nevertheless—most at home. —Michael Cunningham (author of By Nightfall)

Greenwich Village is my refuge. The spirit, the diversity, the determination to come alive again, is palpable and inspiring. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. —Victor Garber (actor)

I’ve never lived anywhere but downtown. Don’t know anything else. —Paul Sevigny (D.J., owner of Paul’s Casablanca, Paul’s Baby Grand)