The coffee must be good
As the tenement buildings and old shops around him have been torn down and replaced by towering condos, Lower East Side native Carmine Morales and his Classic Coffee Shop have survived ongoing gentrification.
Even so, Morales, 56, was happy to hear his shop was smack-dab in the middle of a 12-square-block area preservationists are fighting to protect.
Its crazy how much its changed, he said. Its always been a neighborhood of immigrants and poor folk but not any moreyou gotta be rich. I always joke, the next thing I know Donald Trump is going to be my neighbor.
On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the Lower East Side as one of Americas 11 most endangered historic places in its annual list of architectural, cultural and natural locations at risk of destruction. The national organization is backing a local effort that began in 2006 to create a protected landmark district in the Lower East Side that would be roughly bounded by Allen, Delancey, Essex and Division streets.
Morales said tearing down the old buildings and replacing them with sleek, high-priced condos is changing the face of the neighborhood and erasing its history. Remnants of Morales' own history still remain, like his elementary school (across the street from his coffee shop at 56 Hester Street).
Like many before them, his relatives took the path of many immigrants. His mother grew up in the nabe after her parents emigrated from Italy.
After a stopover in Brooklyn, his father met his mother when he moved to the LES. He opened up Classic Coffee Shop in 1976 with Morales.
Morales moved from his original home but still lives just blocks away from the coffee shop, which is decked out with pictures of his ancestors and ads from the 50s. He said he's been able to stay in the neighborhood even with Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks popping up "on every corner" because of a nice landlord who only increases the rent 5 percent a year.
Plus, the landlord's dad leased to Morales' father.
Morales hopes the preservation group helps keep the LES' diversity and its reputation as a first home for newcomers. He said he's seen many different cultures coexisting as they get their feet on the ground in a new country and then move upward and onward, making room for the next wave of immigrants.
"This was always a stop over for immigrants," he said. "But [developers are] building too high and they're making condos everywhere, asking outrageous money. Thats going to change the whole face of the neighborhood."
-- Marlene Naanes