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Recently, I moved to a new neighborhood, heading from the Upper East Side of Manhattan about five miles south. I’m now living on 14th Street, perched on the northern edge of Alphabet City, the easternmost part of the East Village.

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As in most neighborhoods in New York City, its rich history can be told through the waves of immigrants who moved through its tenement buildings, churches, shops and parks. In a future post I’ll talk about that, but for now I’d like to highlight something that I love about the neighborhood: its incredible number and variety of murals.

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If the Upper East Side is personified by wealthy Ladies Who Lunch turned out flawlessly in their expensive attire, Alphabet City is an unacknowledged twice-removed cousin, a street smart girl in a brightly colored dress with tattered shoes and a slew of tattoos. The word most often used to describe the East Village is “bohemian,” and the neighborhood likes to deliver. Alphabet City displays this spirit in its dozens of amazing murals.

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Murals are so deeply embedded in the neighborhood’s culture that many businesses use them to advertise themselves and to become part of the street art. Here’s a favorite, a local vet clinic. Look at the detail! It’s painted with such care.

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Some murals mix up with graffiti to become a kind of hybrid. They’re so vibrant.

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Of course each mural has a story, especially the commemorative murals. I looked up Eva and learned all about an artist I’d never heard of after I saw this mural.

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Throughout the city, at the end of the work day, store fronts pull down a metal gate for security. In Alphabet City, these gates are prime real estate for murals. Businesses use them for self promotion and graffiti artists use them for tagging (or sometimes both). Since I take early morning walks, all of the gates are down, delivering maximum mural impact.

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Some murals leave me mystified. What’s the story here? I can’t remember which store is behind this gate, but I like the birds.

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Other murals are hilarious. “Bad Pussies” cracks me up every time.

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I like the way that the murals casually integrate themselves into the buildings.

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They’re everywhere!

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All of these photos are from a stroll down Avenue B and up Avenue C. Just the tip of the iceberg! It’s such fun to stumble on new murals as I explore the neighborhood.

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