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Lower East Side, Manhattan

From Academic Kids

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The corner of Orchard and Rivington Streets, Lower East Side (2004)

The Lower East Side is a neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is situated alongside the East River from about the Manhattan Bridge up to 14th Street, and including the Stuyvesant Town housing development. On the west it is roughly bounded by Broadway. It is also referred to as "Loisaida", a slurring together that derives from a Latino pronunication of the three-word name.

One of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, the Lower East Side has long been known as a lower-class, working neighborhood and often as an outright slum. The Lower East Side once was, and in a few parts still is, a center for Eastern European Jewish immigrant culture. More recently, it has been settled by immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere. Particularly in the northern part of the neighborhood, which is also known as the East Village, a preexisting population of Poles and Ukrainians has been significantly replenished with newer immigrants, and the arrival of large numbers of Japanese people over the last fifteen years or so has led to the proliferation of sushi bars and Japanese specialty food markets. There is also a notable population of Bangladeshis and other immigrants from Muslim countries, many of whom are congregants of the Madina Masjid (Mosque), located on First Avenue and 11th Street. This diverse neighborhood also contains many synagogues (though because most of the practicing Jews who used to live in the neighborhood have moved away or died, only a few are functioning) and a great variety of churches, both in terms of denomination and ethnic and linguistic makeup. In addition, there is a major Hare Krishna temple and Buddhist houses of worship. The part of the neighborhood south of Delancey Street and west of Allen Street has in large measure become part of Chinatown, and Grand Street is one of the major business and shopping streets of Chinatown. Also contained within the neighborhood are strips of lighting and restaurant-supply shops on the Bowery. The Bowery, though no longer a largely deserted place save for the legendary Bowery bums, remains the location of the famous Bowery Mission, serving the down-and-out since 1879. Another notable landmark on the Bowery is CBGB, a nightclub that has been presenting live music — including some of the most famous figures in Rock 'n Roll — since 1973. A bit further north and east is McSorley's Old Ale House, a famous Irish bar which opened its doors in 1854.

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Looking north on Fourth Avenue in the East Village

Parts of the Lower East Side are known by other names. The East Village lies in the Lower East Side's northwest corner alongside Greenwich Village; it received that name from real estate developers in the 1980s trying to dissociate the area from the Lower East Side's reputation. As a result, some now distinguish the Lower East Side from the East Village and use the term Lower East Side to refer particularly to the portion of the neighborhood lying south of Houston Street. In the early 2000s, the gentrification of the East Village spread to some parts of the Lower East Side south of Houston Street. This is particularly apparent on Clinton Street, which is lined with trendy upscale restaurants and boutiques nowadays, and on Orchard Street, formerly a dependable location to find bargains in clothing.

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Tenement buildings on the Lower East Side

Within the East Village around Tompkins Square Park lies Alphabet City, part of which was once known as Little Germany.

The neighborhood has historically been a home for counterculture, Jewish, leftist, and revolutionary elements. Emma Goldman, Leon Trotsky, Allen Ginsburg, and Abbie Hoffman have all made it their home at one time or another. For the past hundred years various radical groups have had their headquarters in the area. Prominent anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman published Mother Earth magazine out of 210 E. 13th ST where she is honored with a plaque today. The magazine was founded in 1906. Leon Trotsky lived on St. Marks Place in 1917 as did Abbie Hoffman in 1967. Hoffman along with other members of the anarchist Youth International Party (The Yippies) ran a Free Store on the street. In the 1980's the area saw a squatter movement arise out of the ashes of a red lining program which had left many of the building burned out by the landlords themselves. Hundreds of building were occupied and defended and riots broke out as homesteaders were evicted and a curfew was imposed on Tompkins Square Park. There is still a vibrant radical community centered around LES with many spaces.

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