History of The LES
Initially an Orchard owned by a Frenchman named Delancey, the Lower East Side (“LES”) has changed quite a bit since the 1700’s. Roughly bounded by Chinatown, Nolita and the East River, the LES is historically a working class neighborhood made up of immigrant groups that came to the city in waves. Jews, Russians, Germans, Italians, Irish and many others came to the area at different times, put in some hard work and eventually left for other parts of the city, once they had attained the “American Dream” of a comfortable life. Now the area is largely occupied by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, whose families came to work in the clothing industry in the mid 1900’s. Young professionals have also begun colonizing the neighborhood, and have made it one of the trendiest destinations in the city.
Now home to a large number of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, the LES has turned into a haven for young New Yorkers. The neighborhood also boasts numerous clothing and specialty stores designed to attract budding fashionistas. A recently reopened food market from the 1940’s sells everything from tropical Latin produce to artisanal cheese, perfect for the young farm to table set.
Lower East Side Tenements
While changing quickly, the neighborhood still consists largely of low-rise walk-up buildings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, containing single-family apartments sometimes referred to as “tenements”. With often just two or three rooms, these apartments were often extremely cramped for the families they housed. Now generally shared among groups of two rather than four or more, the apartments are much more comfortable than they once were. New buildings are now starting to take over the neighborhood, but organizations such as the Tenement Museum (highly recommended) are forming to ensure that the area’s unique history is documented.
The Lower East side used to include what is now considered the East Village, but when the demographics of the area above Houston Street began to change in the 1960’s, developers and real estate brokers changed the name for marketing purposes, and the two areas are now seen as separate neighborhoods.
Restaurants we would recommend in the neighborhood are Meatball Shop (American Italian), Souvlaki GR (Greek), Stanton Social (Fusion), Beauty & Essex(Pricey Fusion) and Mission Chinese(run by a very well-known chef from San Francisco). Nightlife we would recommend includes: The Slipper Room, Arlene’s Grocery, Pianos, Hotel Chantelle and Los Feliz. Of course the nature of nightlife in New York City is that it changes by the minute, so please make sure to check current listings.