Lower East Side
Master songwriter Irving Berlin summed it up rather succinctly, “Everybody ought
to have a Lower East Side in their life.” A neighborhood so diverse and culturally
rich undoubtedly deserves the recognition. After all, society owes an invaluable debt
of gratitude to the onetime slum. Much of our nation is descendant from those who
passed through here. Not to mention the innovations birthed in this historical doorstep
community. The area spawned creative institutions like Yiddish Theater, Vaudeville,
ice cream sandwiches, Punk Rock, and certain slang-speak still in common parlance
(e.g. “Jonesin’,” “On a Bender,” “Chum,” “Kick the bucket”).
But enough of what was. What is, is a neighborhood composed of a gung-ho populace,
and one that continues its evolution in eclectic ways. For the last decade, new
architecture has hastily replaced the pre-war tenement standard, thus paving the way
for contrasting streetscapes. For instance, trendy glass hotels are flanked by low-rise
residential living; upscale hair salons and galleries sitting side-by-side with unisex
barbers and tailor shops. Such drastic change also serves as catalyst for nightlife.
Restaurants and bars – the old standbys and popular new destinations alike – continue to
attract ballooning crowds from across the tri-state area.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the vibrant street art scene on the Lower East Side. For
decades, some of the city’s finest have graced gates and facades with colorful murals
(Chico, Lee Quinones, Keith Haring). These days, graffiti writers near and far paste and
paint their part. The iconic wall at Bowery and East Houston, for example, is a coveted
space, hosting a revolving door of artwork, including recent placements by Os Gemeos,
Kenny Scharf, and JR.
Our ancestors couldn’t wait to escape. Now their descendants can’t wait to gain entry!
Neighborhood description provided by Bowery Boogie
Watch StreetEasy’s tour of the Lower East Side guided by Sonia Gil, the international travel expert. New York City history, hipsters, tenement buildings and new developments collide on the narrow streets of this neighborhood!