The Lower East Side in New York

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  12 minutes

Katz's Delicatessen © Alex Lozupone/cc-by-sa-4.0

Katz’s Delicatessen © Alex Lozupone/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Lower East Side, sometimes abbreviated as LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan, roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street. Traditionally an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, it began rapid gentrification in the mid-2000s, prompting The National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America’s Most Endangered Places in 2008. The neighborhood is bordered in the south and west by Chinatown – which extends north to roughly Grand Street, in the west by Nolita and in the north by the East Village. Historically, the “Lower East Side” referred to the area alongside the East River from about the Manhattan Bridge and Canal Street up to 14th Street, and roughly bounded on the west by Broadway. It included areas known today as East Village, Alphabet City, Chinatown, Bowery, Little Italy, and Nolita. Parts of the East Village are still known as Loisaida, a Latino pronunciation of “Lower East Side.”

The population of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was located primarily below the current Fulton Street, while north of it were a number of small plantations and large farms called bouwerij (bowery) at the time (equivalent to “boerderij” in present-day Dutch). Around these farms were a number of enclaves of free or “half-free” Africans, which served as a buffer between the Dutch and the Native Americans. One of the largest of these was located along the modern Bowery between Prince Street and Astor Place. These black farmers were some of the earliest settlers of the area. Gradually, during the 17th century, there was an overall consolidation of the boweries and farms into larger parcels, and much of the Lower East side was then part of the Delancy farm. James Delancey‘s pre-Revolutionary farm east of post road leading from the city (Bowery) survives in the names Delancey Street and Orchard Street. On the modern map of Manhattan, the Delancey farm is represented in the grid of streets from Division Street north to Houston Street. In response to the pressures of a growing city, Delancey began to survey streets in the southern part of the “West Farm” in the 1760s. A spacious projected Delancey Square—intended to cover the area within today’s Eldridge, Essex, Hester and Broome Streets—was eliminated when the loyalist Delancey family’s property was confiscated after the American Revolution. The city Commissioners of Forfeiture eliminated the aristocratic planned square for a grid, effacing Delancey’s vision of a New York laid out like the West End of London. The bulk of immigrants who came to New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to the Lower East Side, moving into crowded tenements there. By the 1840s, large numbers of German immigrants settled in the area, and a large part of it became known as Little Germany or “Kleindeutschland”. This was followed by groups of Italians and Eastern European Jews (Jews in New York City), as well as Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Slovaks and Ukrainians, each of whom settled in relatively homogeneous enclaves. By 1920, the Jewish neighborhood was one of the largest of these ethnic groupings, with 400,000 people, pushcart vendors prominent on Orchard and Grand Streets, and numerous Yiddish theatres along Second Avenue between Houston and 14th Streets. Some kosher delis and bakeries, as well as a few “kosher style” delis, including the famous Katz’s Deli, are located in the neighborhood. Living conditions in these “slum” areas were far from ideal, although some improvement came from a change in the zoning laws which required “new law” tenements to be built with air shafts between them, so that fresh air and some light could reach each apartment. Still, reform movements, such as the one started by Jacob A. Riis‘ book How the Other Half Lives continued to attempt to alleviate the problems of the area through settlement houses, such as the Henry Street Settlement, and other welfare and service agencies. The city itself moved to address the problem when it built First Houses on the south side of East 3rd Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, and on the west side of Avenue A between East 2nd and East 3rd Streets in 1935-36, the first such public housing project in the United States.

Tenement buildings © Moncrief Grand Street © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Blue Condominium Tower © Laura Sanburn/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - InSapphoWeTrust/cc-by-sa-2.0 Henry Street Settlement © 7mike5000/cc-by-sa-3.0 Katz's Delicatessen © Alex Lozupone/cc-by-sa-4.0 Knickerbocker Village © Wusel007/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Blue Condominium Tower © Laura Sanburn/cc-by-sa-3.0
The East Village was once considered the Lower East Side’s northwest corner. However, in the 1960s, the demographics of the area above Houston Street began to change, as hipsters, musicians, and artists moved in. Newcomers and real estate brokers popularized the East Village name, and the term was adopted by the popular media by the mid-1960s. As the East Village developed a culture separate from the rest of the Lower East Side, the two areas came to be seen as two separate neighborhoods rather than the former being part of the latter. By the 1980s, the Lower East Side had begun to stabilize after its period of decline, and once again began to attract students, artists and adventurous member of the middle-class, as well as immigrants from countries such as Bangladesh, China, the Dominican Republic, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Poland. In the early 2000s, the gentrification of the East Village spread to the Lower East Side proper, making it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Orchard Street, despite its “Bargain District” moniker, is now lined with upscale boutiques. Similarly, trendy restaurants, including Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, and wd~50 are found on a stretch of tree-lined Clinton Street that New York Magazine described as the “hippest restaurant row” in the Lower East Side. In November 2007, the Blue Condominium, a 32-unit, 16 story luxury condominium tower was completed at 105 Norfolk Street just north of Delancey Street, the pixellated, faceted blue design of which starkly contrasts with the surrounding neighborhood. Following the construction of the Hotel on Rivington one block away, several luxury condominiums around Houston, and the New Museum on Bowery, this new wave of construction is another sign that the gentrification cycle is entering a high-luxury phase similar to in SoHo and Nolita in the previous decade. More recently, the gentrification that was previously confined to north of Delancey Street continued south. Several restaurants, bars, and galleries opened below Delancey Street after 2005, especially around the intersection of Broome and Orchard Streets. The neighborhood’s second boutique hotel, Blue Moon Hotel, opened on Orchard Street just south of Delancey Street in early 2006. However, unlike The Hotel on Rivington, the Blue Moon used an existing tenement building, and its exterior is almost identical to neighboring buildings. In September 2013, it was announced that the Essex Crossing redevelopment project was to be built in the area, centered around the intersection of Essex and Delancey Streets, but mostly utilizing land south of Delancey Street.

The neighborhood has become home to numerous contemporary art galleries. One of the very first was ABC No Rio. Begun by a group of Colab no waveartists (some living on Ludlow Street), ABC No Rio opened an outsider gallery space that invited community participation and encouraged the widespread production of art. Taking an activist approach to art that grew out of The Real Estate Show (the take over of an abandoned building by artists to open an outsider gallery only to have it chained closed by the police) ABC No Rio kept its sense of activism, community, and outsiderness. The product of this open, expansive approach to art was a space for creating new works that did not have links to the art market place and that were able to explore new artistic possibilities. Other outsider galleries sprung up throughout the Lower East Side and East Village—some 200 at the height of the scene in the 1980s, including the 124 Ridge Street Gallery among others. In December 2007, the New Museum relocated to a brand-new, critically acclaimed building on Bowery at Prince. A growing number of galleries are opening in the Bowery neighborhood to be in close proximity to the museum. The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which opened in 2012, exhibits photography featuring the neighborhood in addition to chronicling its history of activism. The neighborhood is also home to several graffiti artists, such as Chico and Jean-Michel Basquiat. As the neighborhood gentrified and has become safer at night, it has become a popular late night destination. Orchard, Ludlow and Essex between Rivington Street and Stanton Street have become especially packed at night, and the resulting noise is a cause of tension between bar owners and longtime residents. However, as gentrification continues, many established landmarks and venues have been lost. The Lower East Side is also home to many live music venues. Punk bands played at C-Squat and alternative rock bands play at Bowery Ballroom on Delancey Street and Mercury Lounge on East Houston Street. Punk bands play at Otto’s Shrunken Head and R-Bar. Punk and alternative bands play at Bowery Electric just north of the old CBGB‘s location. There are also bars that offer performance space, such as Pianos on Ludlow Street and Arlene’s Grocery on Stanton Street. The Lower East side is the location of the Slipper Room a burlesque, variety and vaudeville theatre on Orchard and Stanton. Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen and U2, have all appeared there, while popular downtown performers Dirty Martini, Murray Hill and Matt Fraser often appear. Variety shows are regularly hosted by comedians James Habacker, Bradford Scobie, Matthew Holtzclaw and Matt Roper under the guise of various characters.

Read more on timeout.com – Lower East Side neighborhood guide, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant, Katz’s Delicatessen, Wikivoyage Lower East Side and Wikipedia Lower East Side (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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