For much of its existence, the East Village was simply an extension of the Lower East Side . At the turn of the 20th century, most of its residents were German Lutheran immigrants. By World War I, most were Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks, Jews, and Russians—some of whom still live in the neighborhood. Not long thereafter, a sizeable Latino population moved in, settling in the easternmost stretches. They, too, are still here.
Then, in the 1950s, artists, writers, radicals, and counterculturists began arriving. Many were fleeing the rising rents in Greenwich Village  and they transformed the East Village into a distinct neighborhood with a character all its own.
First on the scene were artists such as Willem de Kooning, Paul Georges, and Joan Mitchell, followed quickly by writers such as Norman Mailer, W. H. Auden, and Allen Ginsberg. Next came the beatniks, and then the hippies and yippies, rock groups and punk musicians, artists and fashion designers.
Only in the 1980s did the East Village begin to gentrify. Young professionals moved in, bringing with them upscale restaurants and shops. Still, the East Village has not completely succumbed and offers a thriving mix of artists and careerists, students and tourists. Owners of hip boutiques share sidewalk space with the homeless. Drug dealers skulk outside trendy restaurants.
Nightlife is a key component of East Village character. The neighborhood is home to scores of restaurants and bars, along with fly-by-night clubs, which in recent years have pushed as far east as Avenue D in the once notorious Alphabet City (Avenues A, B, C, and D).