50° Good Evening
50° Good Evening
Real EstateCity LivingManhattan

City Living: Lower East Side, where trendy New York meets history

Perhaps a most common perception of the Lower East Side is a place where trendy New York City transplants go to party, bar crawl or nosh at any of the many eateries that lace the neighborhood. But this working-middle class area, once a gateway and home for immigrants, offers more than just a good night.

Rich with history still visible along its corridors and full of diverse residents, the LES also offers quiet streets, transit ease and walk-up historical tenement buildings, some of which have been redeveloped.

"You can say theres two different Lower East Sides," said Michael Comandini, a real estate agent at Citi Habitats who has lived on the LES for three years. He noted that streets like Allen and Rivington serve up a swanky nightlife while streets like Grand and Broome offer the opposite.

"There its low-key; its much more local," he said of the quieter streets.

He calls the LES a "one-stop-shop for everything you need."

"It's not so crazy, its not mainstream and it has a neighborhood feel," he said. "Thats what drew me to it; not many places in Manhattan have that same feel."

According to Comandini, a studio apartment can run as low as $1,700 with one-bedrooms starting around $2,100 and two-bedrooms at $2,800. The area is comprised of more than 80% renters, he said.

Most of the buildings here are mixed-use, with commercial businesses on the ground floor and housing above them.

Comandini said the area is mostly filled with younger people, as many are moving in to relatively affordable spaces compared to the nearby East Village. Walking around the streets near Seward Park on East Broadway and the Seward Park Co-ops, for example, newly budding families can be seen pushing strollers.Some of the long-time residents, like Natalie Lluch who has lived on Grand Street with her husband George since 1978, dont mind the new demographic.

They remained on the LES mostly because of the affordability compared to areas like Upper East or West sides, but also because of a much-needed and coveted perk in New York City.

"We can park [a car] here, she said. Where else can you do that in the city? Its nonexistent. The most wed have to walk is two blocks."

The mixture of nationalities from Puerto Rican and Dominican, to Jewish and Chinese and the blend of cuisines are also an aspect of the area she appreciates.

You have the people coming in and the people that are still here mixing, its like a collage, Lluch said.

The Lower East Side has always been a beacon for immigrants.

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Manhattan, the area was home to mainly Jews and Germans who occupied the tenement buildings in the 1800s and early 1900s, according to the Library of Congress.

A large Latino population also abounds, made up of mainly Puerto Rican and Dominicans. They give the nabe its alternate name Loisaida, which also extends to the East Village where the popular Loisaida festival is held annually.

A wave of development which began around 2001 is pushing out many long-time businesses and residents as hotels, renovated walkups and luxury condo buildings attract a more affluent demographic.

Yet, pockets of the old remain.

The LES is the original garment district, filled with factories and wholesale stores.

On Orchard Street places like Belraf Fabrics and Joes Fabrics remain, reminiscent of its past when crowds flocked here for discount shopping, giving the LES the nickname the Bargain District."

Today suit, lingerie and clothing stores with bargain prices can be found. Ludlow Street was once full of wholesale toy stores and now there is a small nightlife strip where places like Pianos have replaced the old.

With the abundance of restaurants, it may as well be called the Lower Eat Side as old establishments like Katzs Delicatessen and Russ and Daughters still stand on East Houston Street, Doughnut Plant on Grand Street and Schillers Liquor Bar on Rivington Street.

They coexist with newcomers like Clinton Street Baking Company & Restaurant, The Meatball Shop on Stanton Street, OST Cafe on Grand Street and Barrio Chino on Broome Street.

A thriving arts scene also pulsates on the Lower East side with more than three dozen galleries and mixed-use spaces.

"There are so many places to go, Comandini said. Its an area where you feel like you dont need to travel out."