The Lower East Side Then and Now

Then and Now – that’s a walking tour by the Tenement Museum, showing how the neighborhood has changed. I wanted to join it all the time and finally did today.

The tour was scheduled for 2 pm. I arrived at the Tenement Museum early as I had no idea how long it would take to get me to get to the Lower East Side from the Upper West Side. I had to take the 1 train to 14th Street, walk from 7th to 6th Avenue there and catch the F or M. It was much faster than I expected however. So I had plenty of time to browse through the shop and find some little presents.
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We were a small group then. A family from New Zealand, two guys from London and the Upper West Side and me. The subject of the tour was how the neighborhood had changed in the course of the last century. I learned a lot that I had not known so far.
There has been an elevated train on Allen Street and a red light district below it. Allen Street has been widened to what it is now in the 1930s, to make it safer and more attractive and the El has been demolished in 1942.
Robert Moses wanted to build a 10-lane highway right through Lower Manhattan, the LOMEX – Lower Manhattan Expressway – connecting Brooklyn to New Jersey. The plan was cancelled in the 1960s because of massive community opposition.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park has sections for several ethnic groups of immigrants. So for instance there is a little Chinese park area where in the morning Chinese residents hang up their birdcages so that their birds can talk to each other. A group up African Americans run a community garden project.
The church at Forsyth and Delancey Streets has been built as a Lutheran church by German immigrants, then was turned into a Synagogue and now is an Adventist church, which is popular by the Dominicans.
The Hotel on Rivington, built in 2007 as the tallest building in the neighborhood with a special permit, rents suites for 700$ a day – successfully.
The large parking lot close to Williamsburg Bridge is part of a planned construction of luxury condos, next door to public housing.
That and more our knowledgeable guide showed us. On Forsyth Street we passed a film setting. A whole block was filled with trucks and on the sidewalk spotlights and other equipment were just installed.
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Back in the museum I bought my presents and then had a latte and a cookie in the café at Orchard and Broome Streets.

It was too early to go to Chinatown where I was to meet Soh Ang, her coworker June and two other girls for a Peking Duck dinner. So I decided to pay a visit to the Strand to look for a particular book I wanted to check out as another present. Therefore I caught an uptown M103 bus on Bowery. The Strand didn’t have the book, so I walked over to Union Square to look for it at Barnes & Noble. On Union Square a Christmas Market has opened up just today. It is getting more and more christmasy in Manhattan.

A 6 train took me down to Canal Street and I walked to Mott Street to find Amazing 66. Soh Ang and June were standing there already, both carrying lots of bags from Chinatown shopping. The other two young women joining us were a former neighbor of June’s who just had moved to Chinatown and is Canadian Chinese, and another woman who like Soh Ang and June is Singaporean Chinese.
We didn’t have just Peking Duck but three more dishes to share. There was beef with noodles, pork chops with peppers and onions and a vegetable dish with Pok Choy and several types of mushrooms.
The duck was cut into pieces at our tables and served with little flat buns, scallions and cucumber and hoisin sauce. Meat and vegetables are put onto the bun, sprinkled with sauce, folded and eaten by hand.
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The vegetable dish was exceptionally good.
We didn’t manage all of our food – of course. For dessert we got a puree of red beans with sago and slices of orange on the house.

Soh Ang and I then took the R train together and I gave her my bag with presents to store it with the rest of my belongings. I caught a 2 at Times Square and again walked home from 96th Street to make a stop at Westside Market to buy some bread for breakfast.

What I learned today:
There is still a lot I don’t know about New York.

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