Greenwich Village was a zone of rogues and outcasts from the start.
In 1640 the population of New Amsterdam, a rough outpost of the Dutch West India Company, was fewer than five hundred people, but it was astonishingly diverse, “the motliest assortment of souls in Christendom,” including Dutch and Walloons, French, Swedish, English, Germans, “one Cicero Alberto (known around town as “the Italian’), and a Muslim mulatto. The first Jews would arrive in 1654. Predominantly male, more employee than citizen, the residents were touch, contentious, and often drunk–drinking and whoring were the chief entertainments, and taverns occupied a quarter of the town’s buildings. New York’s enduring reputation as a wide-open party town goes back to its founding.
–by John Strausbaugh