Lower East Side

Lower East Side, New York City

The Lower East Side is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in New York City. Many of the early immigrants from different parts of the world settled here. As a result, this is where you have Little Italy and Chinatown.

Sights in the Lower East Side

As the city becomes more prosperous, these ethnic enclaves have also become gentrified. Nevertheless the ambience remains. You can still walk down streets with sign in Chinese. It is a good place to pick up a bargain, or to shop for things that you can’t find elsewhere in the city.

Angel Orensanz Foundation

The Angel Orensanz Foundation is a cherry-red structure at 172 Norfolk Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It is a cultural center for musical and literary events. Recently the Angel Orensanz Foundation opened an Art Gallery on its ground floor. I understand that a museum is also in the works.

That’s what the building is today, in its present life and name. However, the building has a long and colorful history.

It began life as the Ansche Chesed Synagogue, built in 1849 in the Neo-Gothic style. The Ansche Chesed Synagogue was the oldest synagogue in New York City, and at the time of its completion, the biggest in the world.

The building was designed by Berlin architect Alexander Saelzer. It is based on the design of the Cologne Cathedral and the Friederichwerdeschekirche in the Mitte in Berlin.

The Jewish population drained out of the Lower East Side after World War II, forcing many synagogues there to close, and Ansche Chesed was not spared.

The Ansche Chesed Synagogue building was bought over and rehabilitated by Spanish sculptor Angel Orensanz in 1986. Today it houses the Angel Orensanz Foundation, which also has a website, www.orensanz.org

How to reach the Angel Orensanz Foundation

Take the F, J, M or Z trains to the Essex Street/Delancey Street subway station. Walk east on Delancey Street until intersection with Norfolk Street. Turn left and walk north on Norfolk Street. After the Stanton Street intersection, you will find the Angel Orensanz Foundation on the right side of Norfolk Street.

Bowery Savings Bank

The Bowery Savings Bank Building is a Classical Revival Building at 130 Bowery, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The building was erected in 1894. It was built next to a building that belonged to a rival establishment, the Butcher’ and Drovers’ Bank, which refused to sell the corner plot to Bowery Savings Bank. So the architect designed the facade of the Bowery Savings Bank to wrap around the rival building.

Today the Bowery Savings Bank Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it houses an upscale event hall and popular wedding venue called the Capitale.

How to reach the Bowery Savings Bank Building

Take either the B or D subway trains to the Grand Street Station or the J or M subway trains to the Bowery station.

Columbus Park

Columbus Park is a park, and the only open space in the Chinatown neighborhood, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The park is bordered by Worth Street, Baxter Street, Bayard Street and Mulberry Street.

What is today a tranquil park was once a red light district. That was in the 19th century, when the neighborhood was a slum area overrun by gangsterism. In 1892 the area was cleaned up and turned into a park.

How to reach Columbus Park

Take the J, M or Z subway trains to the Canal Street station.

Economy Candy

Economy Candy at 108 Rivington Street is a family-run candy store in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City.

This is the place to browse through hundreds of different types of candies, many of which has been around for over half a century. Economy Candy was founded in 1937, and today is one of the local landmarks. They even have a website, www.economycandy.com

The candy store was founded by Jerry Cohen, who turned his father’s penny candy store, Nosher’s Paradise, into a national company. Today Economy Candy stocks sweets from all over the whole, so are quite spoilt for choice.

Economy Cany is open Sundays to Fridays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

How to reach Economy Candy

Take the F, J, M or Z trains to the Essex Street subway station. Walk north along Essex Street until intersection with Rivington Street. Turn left and go along Rivington Street until you see Economy Candy on your right. At time of writing (Feb 2010), it is a 3-storey building with exposed red bricks.

Eldridge Street Synagogue

Eldridge Street Synagogue in Manhattan is the first large synagogue in the United States. It was built by Jews who immigrated to New York City from Eastern Europe.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in the Moorish style, making it stand out from the rest of the building in the neighborhood. It could house as many as 1,000 worshippers at one time, but over time the congregants soon left the neighborhood, causing the synagogue to close down in the 1950’s.

Three decades later, concerned citizens raised funds to have the synagogue restored. Today it stands as a National Historic Landmark.

How to reach the Eldridge Street Synagogue

The synagogue is located at No. 12, Eldridge Street. You can take the F subway train to the East Broadway Station.

Engine Company No. 31

Engine Company No. 31 is a late 19th century fire station. It is located at 87 Lafayette Street, at the corner between Lafayette Street and White Street, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In those days, fire stations were such an important part of the city that they were creatively designed. Of these, Engine Company No. 31 is regarded as the most beautiful.

It was designed by the firm of Le Brun to resemble a château in Loire, France. It is almost like a fire station out of a fairy tale story.

Today Engine Company No. 31 is no longer used as a fire station. Instead it houses the Downtown Community Television Center. The building is not open to the public, so you can just view it from the outside, which in my opinion, is quite sufficient.

How to reach Engine Company No. 31

Take train 6 to the Canal Street subway station, walk south on Lafayette Street, and you will see Engine No. 6 on your left.

Essex Street Market

Essex Street Market is a produce market in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It came to life on the initiative of New York City Major, Fiorello H. La Guardia, to get itinerant vendors off the streets and away from traffic, to a place where people can do their marketing more comfortably. The result was the Essex Street Retail Market, established in 1938.

Today known simply as the Essex Street Market, the establishment labels itself as the “Historic Culinary Destination on NYC’s Lower East Side”. This is the place to look at the raw food bought by the people of the city, the beef, the cheese and the spices. There’s gourmet food, fish, fruits, chocolates, and more.

If you have nothing to shop for, you can head to the eateries within the market. There’s also a dash of culture in the form of the Cuchifritos Art Gallery.

The Essex Street Market is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. Check their website at www.essexstreetmarket.com

How to reach the Essex Street Market

Take the F, J, M or Z trains to the Essex Street/Delancey Street subway station, and you are at the doorstep of Essex Street Market, which occupies a whole city block. You will probably emerge from the subway near Fabco Shoes (as at time of writing, Feb 2010).

FusionArts Museum

The FusionArts Museum is a museum located at 57 Stanton Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It boasts to being the only museum in New York City devoted to the multidisciplinary art, a.k.a. fusion art.

It’s a museum you either love or hate. On the outside, you can see metal sculptures painted in psychedelic colors, making the museum look a lot like a colorful bicycle shop. The interior deco is thankfully more reserved.

As the name of the museum suggests, it exhibits art that is a fusion of photography, video, sculpture, painting and other artform which other museums would not have appreciated. It also provides budding artists a platform to showcase their works.

The FusionArts Museum has a website at www.fusionartsmuseum.org

How to reach the FusionArts Museum

Take the F or V trains to the Second Avenue/Lower East Side subway station. Walk east along East Houston Street until intersection with Eldridge Street. Turn south on Eldridge Street. At the intersection with Stanton Street, turn right, and you will see the FusionArts Museum on the left side of Stanton Street. At time of writing, it is next to Esteves Grocery.

FusionArts Museum opens Sundays to Wednesday from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm, on Thursdays from 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm, and on Fridays from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a museum at 108 Orchard Street. It recreates the appearance of apartments in the late 19th century right up to the earlier part of the 20th century.

As there were no regulations to tenement living conditions until 1879, rented apartment at that time were squalid, with no windows or indoor plumbing. At that time, the poor lived crammed together under the most deplorable quarters. This is vividly captured in the museum, which provides visitors snapshots of how life was like back in those early days.

Today the museum conduct tours where visitors can experience how it was last going back to the past.

Tenement Museum
108 Orchard Street
Web: www.tenement.org

How to reach the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Take the F, J, M or Z train to the Essex Street/Delancey Street station.

New Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum of Contemporary Art, or simply The New Museum, is a museum created to exhibit contemporary art from all over the world. It is located at 235 Bowery, facing Prince Street. The museum moved to its present location in December 2007. The new building, looking like a stack of white boxes, was designed by the Tokyo-based architectural firm of Sejima+Nishizawa/SANAA. Condé Nast Traveler praised its design as one of the architectural seven wonders.

The New Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, who was previously attached to the Whitney Museum as Curator of Painting and Sculpture. Her intention here was to showcase works that are being neglected by the other more traditional museums. The result is one of the most cutting edge museums in New York City.

The New Museum does not hold any permanent collections. Instead three or four major shows are presented here every year.

The New Museum is open from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is also open from 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm on Thursdays and Fridays. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The general admission price is US$12.00.

How to reach the New Museum of Contemporary Art

Take the J or M trains to the Bowery subway station. Walk north on the Bowery until you see the museum on your right. There’s a big “Hell, Yes!” signage in rainbow colors on the otherwise gray building.

St Patrick’s Old Cathedral

The St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, at 260-264 Mulberry Street, between Prince and Houston Streets, in Little Italy and near Chinatown, in Lower Manhattan, New York City, was the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, until the opening of the current St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1879.

Construction of the old St Patrick’s was started in 1809 and completed in 1815. It was consecrated on 14 May 1815. The church measures 120 ft by 80 ft and has a vault that is 85 feet high. While the new St Patrick’s Cathedral was being constructed, the old St Patrick’s caught fire. It was restored and reopened in 1868. The St Patrick’s Old Cathedral was elevated to the status of a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on 17 March 2010. Henceforth it is now known as the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral.

The St Patrick’s Old Cathedral served as the endpoint for the annual St Patrick’s Day parade until 1830, after which the ending place was changed to the Church of the Transfiguration. It was eventually relocated again, and the ending of the parade is now at the front of the present St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Police Building, New York City

The Police Building is a beautiful building at 240 Centre Street in NoLIta, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It got its name because it was the headquarters of the New York Police Department, from 1909 until 1973.

The Police Building was designed by Hoppin & Koen. It has a dome in the middle, the main portico, and end pavilions with Corinthian columns. The building was one of the public buildings being erected within the neighborhood of the New York City Hall. At that time, the city was planning to develop the Civic Center neighborhood with magnificent government buildings.

When the police moved out in 1973, the building fell into neglect until 1988, when it was redeveloped into an upscale apartment block. The redesign, by the team of Ehrenkrantz Group & Eckstut, places 55 apartment units into the building. It stands as a superb example of the sympathetic reuse of a historical building.

How to reach the Police Building

You can either take the J, M, or Z subway trains to Canal St Station, or the 6 subway train to Spring Street station.

Puck Building

Puck Building is a rust-color building located at 295-309 Lafayette Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It was designed by Albert and Herman, who drew inspiration from the German Rundbogenstil of the 19th century.

The Puck Building got its name because it was the base for the satirical magazine Puck from 1887 to 1916. It even held the distinction, at the turn of the 20th century, to be the biggest structure in the world used for lithography and publishing.

Today Puck Building is often the venue for plush parties and social functions. It is also used for photoshoots. There are two statues of Puck on the Puck Building They stand on pedestals, so look up to see them. One is at the corner of Mulberry and Houston Streets while the other is just above the entrance to the building facing Lafayette Street.

How to reach the Puck Building

Take the B, D, F or V trains to the Broadway/Lafayette Street subway station.

Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge (see map) is a suspension bridge across the East River. It links the Lower East Side in Manhattan with the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Williamsburg Bridge was the second bridge across the East River. It was constructed from 1896 to 1903 at the cost of $12 million. At the time of its completion, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, holding the record until 1924, when the Bear Mountain Bridge was completed.

The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 ft (2,227 m) long and 118 ft (36 m) wide. It offers clearance of 135 ft (41 m) from the water below. The bridge is unusual for a suspension bridge, as its side spans are cantilevered and not supported by the cables above. Along with the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge is one of the two suspension bridges in New York City that is still used for both vehicle and rail traffic.

Neighborhoods of the Lower East Side

Alphabet City

Alphabet City (see map) is a neighborhood within the East Village of Manhattan, New York City. It is called Alphabet City because the avenues there are named after single letters such as A, B, C, and D.

Alphabet City is bordered by Houston Street to the south and 14th Street to the north. Among the landmarks here include Tompkins Square Park and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

As in the case with many of the neighborhoods in Manhattan – and for that matter, New York City – Alphabet City has seen a succession of ethnic groups coming to make it their home. In the 1840s and 1850s, the area has inhabited mostly by a German-speaking community, and was popularly called “Kleindeutschland” or “Little Germany”.

By the 1880s, the Germans were leaving Kleindeutschland, and in their place came other immigrants such as Eastern European Jews, Irish, and Italians. The living condition at that time was bad.


Chinatown in New York City is an ethnic enclave with a distinctly Chinese population. It is said to have the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere and is also one of the oldest Chinese enclaves outside of Asia. See Best of Chinatown.


SoHo (see map) is a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. It got its name from the “south of Houston Street”. The practice of using portmanteau as a place name spewed other similarly named neighborhoods in Manhattan, among them TriBeCa, NoLIta, and DUMBO.

The SoHo of New York City is totally unrelated to the Soho in London. The area was farmland in the 19th century but has become a bohemian enclave by the mid-20th century when it attracted artists looking for space to work and live, as well as low rentals.

The popularity that the artists gave to SoHo led to it becoming gentrified – and famous, and expensive. Today SoHo has metamorphosed into a trendy shopping destination. It is particularly well known for its many buildings incorporating cast iron architectural elements, so much so that it was formerly known as the Cast Iron District.

SoHo is generally regarded as the area bounded by Houston Street to the north, Lafayette Street to the east, Canal Street to the south, and the West Side Highway on the west. Purists however insist that the western border of SoHo is at West Broadway, not at West Side Highway, as the area west of West Broadway should be correctly known as South Village. On the east side of SoHo, that is to say, to the east of Lafayette Street, is the northern part of Little Italy, now more commonly called NoLIta.

SoHo was saved from demolition that had fallen the original Pennsylvania Station and other historic structures. In the 1960s, there was a plan to make the SoHo area the site of two enormous elevated highways, comprising the two branches of the Lower Manhattan Expressway. The idea was to create an automobile and truck through-route connecting the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges on the east with the Holland Tunnel on the west.

That plan faced what was a young historic preservation movement. Architectural critics, stung by the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station and the threat to other historic structures, challenged the plans because of the threatened loss of a huge quantity of 19th-century cast iron structures – a move far ahead of its time as at that time, such structures were not highly valued by the general public. Through the efforts of Jane Jacobs, George Maciunas, and other local leaders, the highway project was derailed and abandoned.

Streets in the Lower East Side

Delancey Street

Delancey Street is one of the major streets in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It runs from the Bowery to the Williamsburg Bridge. Once a beautiful boulevard, today Delancey Street is a busy road leading to the bridge.

Delancey Street was named after James De Lancey, who owned a farm here during the Colonial period. A loyalist of King George III, he fled to England during the American Revolution, and his land was possessed by the government. Among the streets that intersect with Delancey Street, from west to east, include Chrystie Street, Forsyth Street, Eldridge Street, Allen Street, Orchard Street, Ludlow Street, Essex Street, Norfolk Street, Suffolk Street, Clinton Street, Attorney Street, Ridge Street, Pitt Street, Willett Street, Sheriff Street, Columbia Street, Lewis Street, Baruch Drive, Margin Place, and the FDR East River Drive, which is below the Williamsburg Bridge.

How to reach Delancey Street

Take the F, J, M or Z trains to the Essex Street/Delancey Street subway station.

East Houston Street

East Houston Street is a street that runs parallel to Delancey Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The street can be considered as the border between Lower East Side and the East Village.

Among the sights along East Houston Street is the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, an establishment that has been there for the past 90 years. It is located between the intersections of East Houston Street with Forsyth Street and Eldridge Street.

The Sunshine Theater is also another landmark of East Houston Street. It was constructed in the 1840s and looks like a Dutch Reformed Church. Over the ages, the theater has been the venue for everything from boxing to vaudeville, and today shows art films.

The Jewish flavor of the Lower East Side is still apparent at Russ and Daughters, a store that sells smoked fish and herring. It has been around at this location since 1914.

Also still making a roaring business here, after one hundred years of existence, is Katz’s Delicatessen, at the corner of East Houston Street with Ludlow Street. The deli sells pastrami and corned beef sandwiches.

How to reach East Houston Street

Take the F or V trains to the Second Avenue/Lower East Side subway station.

Orchard Street

Orchard Street is a street in Manhattan, New York City. It covers a distance of eight blocks, from Division Street in Chinatown right up to East Houston Street on the Lower East Side. The street got its name from an orchard on James De Lancey’s Colonial estate.

Orchard Street is lined in almost its entirety with low-rise low-cost apartment buildings. Life in these squalid flats is captured in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

The businesses operating along Orchard Street are somehow related to garment and textile: there are lingerie shops, men’s suit stores, and discount clothing shops on the street.

In recent years, Orchard Street has undergone gentrification, and now upscale boutiques, as well as designer shops, are opening here as well. This is certainly true north of the Rivington Street junction, while the section south of Grand Street is seeing a few new restaurants, bars, and art galleries.

How to reach Orchard Street

The street runs a length of eight city blocks. Although there are no subway stations right on the street itself, the two nearest stations are the Essex Street/Delancey Street station, served by the F, J, M, and Z trains, and the Grand Street station, served by the B and D trains.

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