As was all of Manhattan Island, the area now known as the Lower East Side was occupied by members of the Lenape tribe, who were organized in bands which moved from place to place according to the seasons, fishing on the rivers in the summer, and moving inland in the fall and winter to gather crops and hunt for food. Their main trail took approximately the route of Broadway. One encampment in the Lower East Side area, near Corlears Hook was called Rechtauck or Naghtogack.
The population of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was located primarily below the current Fulton Street, while north of it were a number of small plantations and large farms called bouwerij (bowery) at the time (equivalent to "boerderij" in present-day Dutch). Around these farms were a number of enclaves of free or "half-free" Africans, which served as a buffer between the Dutch and the Native Americans. One of the largest of these was located along the modern Bowery between Prince Street and Astor Place. These black farmers were some of the earliest settlers of the area.
Gradually, during the 17th century, there was an overall consolidation of the boweries and farms into larger parcels, and much of the Lower East side was then part of the Delancy farm.
James Delancey's pre-Revolutionary farm east of post road leading from the city (Bowery) survives in the names Delancey Street and Orchard Street. On the modern map of Manhattan, the Delancey farm is represented in the grid of streets from Division Street north to Houston Street. In response to the pressures of a growing city, Delancey began to survey streets in the southern part of the "West Farm" in the 1760s. A spacious projected Delancey Square—intended to cover the area within today's Eldridge, Essex, Hester and Broome Streets—was eliminated when the loyalist Delancey family's property was confiscated after the American Revolution. The city Commissioners of Forfeiture eliminated the aristocratic planned square for a grid, effacing Delancey's vision of a New York laid out like the West End of London.
Corlears Hook (red arrow) is "Crown Point" in this British map of 1776; "Delaney's [sic] New Square" (blue square northwest of Corlears Hook) was never built
The point of land on the East River now called Corlears Hook was also called Corlaers Hook under Dutch and British rule, and briefly Crown Point during British occupation in the Revolution. It was named after the schoolmaster Jacobus van Corlaer, who settled on this "plantation" that in 1638 was called by a Europeanized version of its Lenape name, Nechtans or Nechtanc. Corlaer sold the plantation to Wilhelmus Hendrickse Beekman (1623–1707), founder of the Beekman family of New York; his son Gerardus Beekman was christened at the plantation, on August 17, 1653.
On February 25, 1643, volunteers from the New Amsterdam colony killed thirtyWiechquaesgecks at their encampment at Corlears Hook, as part of Kieft's War, in retaliation for ongoing conflicts between the colonists and the natives of the area, including their unwillingness to pay tribute, and their refusal to turn over the killer of a colonist.
The projection into the East River that retained Corlaer's name was an important landmark for navigators for 300 years. On older maps and documents it is usually spelled Corlaers Hook, but since the early 19th century the spelling has been anglicized to Corlears. The rough unplanned settlement that developed at Corlaer's Hook under the British occupation of New York during the Revolution was separated from the densely populated city by rough hills of glacial till: "this region lay beyond the city proper, from which it was separated by high, uncultivated, and rough hills", observers recalled in 1843.
As early as 1816, Corlears Hook was notorious for streetwalkers, "a resort for the lewd and abandoned of both sexes", and in 1821 its "streets abounding every night with preconcerted groups of thieves and prostitutes" were noted by the "Christian Herald". In the course of the 19th century they came to be called hookers. In the summer of cholera in New York, 1832, a two-storey wooden workshop was commandeered to serve as a makeshift cholera hospital; between July 18 and September 15 when the hospital was closed, as the cholera wound down, 281 patients were admitted, both black and white, of whom 93 died.
In 1833, Corlear's Hook was the location of some of the first tenements built in New York City.
Corlears Hook is mentioned in the opening page of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, first published in 1851: "Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see? ..."
The original location of Corlears Hook is now obscured by shoreline landfill. It was near the east end of the present pedestrian bridge over the FDR Drive near Cherry Street. The name is preserved in Corlears Hook Park at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets along the East River Drive.
The bulk of immigrants who came to New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to the Lower East Side, moving into crowded tenements there. By the 1840s, large numbers of German immigrants settled in the area, and a large part of it became known as "Little Germany" or "Kleindeutschland". This was followed by groups of Italians and Eastern European Jews, as well as Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Slovaks and Ukrainians, each of whom settled in relatively homogeneous enclaves. By 1920, the Jewish neighborhood was one of the largest of these ethnic groupings, with 400,000 people, pushcart vendors prominent on Orchard and Grand Streets, and numerous Yiddish theatres along Second Avenue between Houston and 14th Streets.
By the 1960s, the influence of the Jewish and eastern European groups declined as many of these residents had left the area, while other ethnic groups had coalesced into separate neighborhood, such as Little Italy. The Lower East Side then experienced a period of "persistent poverty, crime, drugs, and abandoned housing".
The East Village was once considered the Lower East Side's northwest corner. However, in the 1960s, the demographics of the area above Houston Street began to change, as hipsters, musicians, and artists moved in. Newcomers and real estate brokers popularized the East Village name, and the term was adopted by the popular media by the mid-1960s. As the East Village developed a culture separate from the rest of the Lower East Side, the two areas came to be seen as two separate neighborhoods rather than the former being part of the latter.
In the early 2000s, the gentrification of the East Village spread to the Lower East Side proper, making it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Orchard Street, despite its "Bargain District" moniker, is now lined with upscale boutiques. Similarly, trendy restaurants, including Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, wd~50, Cube 63, and Falai are found on a stretch of tree-lined Clinton Street that New York Magazine described as the "hippest restaurant row" on the Lower East Side.
In November 2007, the Blue Condominium, a 32-unit, 16 story luxury condominium tower was completed at 105 Norfolk Street just north of Delancey Street, the pixellated, faceted blue design of which starkly contrasts with the surrounding neighborhood. Following the construction of the Hotel on Rivington one block away, several luxury condominiums around Houston, and the New Museum on Bowery, this new wave of construction is another sign that the gentrification cycle is entering a high-luxury phase similar to in SoHo and Nolita in the previous decade.
More recently, the gentrification that was previously confined to north of Delancey Street continued south. Several restaurants, bars, and galleries opened below Delancey Street after 2005, especially around the intersection of Broome and Orchard Streets. The neighborhood's second boutique hotel, Blue Moon Hotel, opened on Orchard Street just south of Delancey Street in early 2006. However, unlike The Hotel on Rivington, the Blue Moon used an existing tenement building, and its exterior is almost identical to neighboring buildings. In September 2013, it was announced that the Essex Crossing redevelopment project was to be built in the area, centered around the intersection of Essex and Delancey Streets, but mostly utilizing land south of Delancey Street.
Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Lower East Side was 72,957, an increase of 699 (1.0%) from the 72,258 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 535.91 acres (216.88 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 136.1 inhabitants per acre (87,100/sq mi; 33,600/km2). The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 22.6% (16,453) White, 10.9% (7,931) African American, 0.2% (142) Native American, 24.9% (18,166) Asian, 0.0% (13) Pacific Islander, 0.3% (191) from other races, and 1.6% (1,191) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 39.6% (28,870) of the population.
The entirety of Community District 3, which comprises the Lower East Side and East Village, had 171,103 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 82.2 years.:2, 20 This is higher than the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are adults: a plurality (35%) are between the ages of 25–44, while 25% are between 45–64, and 16% are 65 or older. The ratio of youth and college-aged residents was lower, at 13% and 11% respectively.:2
As of 2017, the median household income in Community District 3 was $39,584, though the median income in the Lower East Side individually was $51,649. In 2018, an estimated 18% of Lower East Side and East Village residents lived in poverty, compared to 14% in all of Manhattan and 20% in all of New York City. One in twelve residents (8%) were unemployed, compared to 7% in Manhattan and 9% in New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 48% in the Lower East Side and East Village, compared to the boroughwide and citywide rates of 45% and 51% respectively. Based on this calculation, as of 2018[update], the Lower East Side and East Village are considered to be gentrifying.:7
"Cliff Dwellers" by Bellows, depicting the Lower East Side as it was in the early 20th century
Katz's Deli, a symbol of the neighborhood's Jewish cultural history
One of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, the Lower East Side has long been a lower-class worker neighborhood and often a poor and ethnically diverse section of New York. As well as Irish, Italians, Poles, Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups, it once had a sizeable German population and was known as Little Germany (Kleindeutschland). Today it is a predominantly Puerto Rican and Dominican community, and in the process of gentrification (as documented by the portraits of its residents in the Clinton+Rivington chapter of The Corners Project.)
Since the immigration waves from eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Lower East Side became known as having been a center of Jewish immigrant culture. In her 2000 book Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America, Hasia Diner explains that the Lower East Side is especially remembered as a place of Jewish beginnings for Ashkenazi American Jewish culture. Vestiges of the area's Jewish heritage exist in shops on Hester and Essex Streets, and on Grand Street near Allen Street. An Orthodox Jewish community is based in the area, operating yeshiva day schools and a mikvah. A few Judaica shops can be found along Essex Street and a few Jewish scribes and variety stores. Some kosher delis and bakeries, as well as a few "kosher style" delis, including the famous Katz's Deli, are located in the neighborhood. Second Avenue in the Lower East Side was home to many Yiddish theatre productions in the Yiddish Theater District during the early part of the 20th century, and Second Avenue came to be known as "Yiddish Broadway," though most of the theaters are gone. Songwriter Irving Berlin, actor John Garfield, and singer Eddie Cantor grew up here.
Since the mid-20th century, the area has been settled primarily by immigrants, primarily from Latin America, especially Central America and Puerto Rico. They have established their own groceries and shops, marketing goods from their culture and cuisine. Bodegas have replaced Jewish shops. They are mostly Roman Catholic.
In what is now the East Village, the earlier populations of Poles and Ukrainians have moved on and been largely supplanted by newer immigrants. The immigration of numerous Japanese people over the last fifteen years or so has led to the proliferation of Japanese restaurants and specialty food markets. There is also a notable population of Bangladeshis and other immigrants from Muslim countries, many of whom are congregants of the small Madina Masjid (Mosque), located on First Avenue and 11th Street.
Chinese residents have also been moving into Lower East Side, and since the late 20th century, they have comprised a large immigrant group in the area. The part of the neighborhood south of Delancey Street and west of Allen Street has, in large measure, become part of Chinatown. 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.
While the Lower East Side has been a place of successive immigrant populations, many American Jews relate to the neighborhood in a strong manner, much as Chinatown in San Francisco holds a special place in the imagination of Chinese Americans, and Astoria in the hearts of Greek Americans. It was a center for the ancestors of many people in the metropolitan area, and it was written about and portrayed in fiction and films.
In the late twentieth century, Jewish communities have worked to preserve a number of buildings associated with the Jewish immigrant community.
The neighborhood has become home to numerous contemporary art galleries. One of the very first was ABC No Rio. Begun by a group of Colabno wave artists (some living on Ludlow Street), ABC No Rio opened an outsider gallery space that invited community participation and encouraged the widespread production of art. Taking an activist approach to art that grew out of The Real Estate Show (the take over of an abandoned building by artists to open an outsider gallery only to have it chained closed by the police) ABC No Rio kept its sense of activism, community, and outsiderness. The product of this open, expansive approach to art was a space for creating new works that did not have links to the art market place and that were able to explore new artistic possibilities.
Other outsider galleries sprung up throughout the Lower East Side and East Village—some 200 at the height of the scene in the 1980s, including the 124 Ridge Street Gallery among others. In December 2007, the New Museum relocated to a brand-new, critically acclaimed building on Bowery at Prince. A growing number of galleries are opening in the Bowery neighborhood to be in close proximity to the museum. The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which opened in 2012, exhibits photography featuring the neighborhood in addition to chronicling its history of activism.
As the neighborhood gentrified and has become safer at night, it has become a popular late night destination. Orchard, Ludlow and Essex between Rivington Street and Stanton Street have become especially packed at night, and the resulting noise is a cause of tension between bar owners and longtime residents. However, as gentrification continues, many established landmarks and venues have been lost.
The Lower East Side is the location of the Slipper Room a burlesque, variety and vaudeville theatre on Orchard and Stanton. Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen and U2 have all appeared there, while popular downtown performers Dirty Martini, Murray Hill and Matt Fraser often appear. Variety shows are regularly hosted by comedians James Habacker, Bradford Scobie, Matthew Holtzclaw and Matt Roper under the guise of various characters.
Police and crime
The NYPD 7th Precinct (top) and FDNY Engine Co. 15/Ladder Co. 18/Battalion 4 (bottom) are housed in the same building
The Lower East Side is patrolled by the 7th Precinct of the NYPD, located at 191⁄2 Pitt Street. The 7th Precinct, along with the neighboring 5th Precinct, ranked 48th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010. With a non-fatal assault rate of 42 per 100,000 people, the Lower East Side and East Village's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 449 per 100,000 people is higher than that of the city as a whole.:8
The 7th Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 66.3% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 0 murders, 15 rapes, 118 robberies, 153 felony assaults, 93 burglaries, 518 grand larcenies, and 22 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Preterm and teenage births are less common in the Lower East Side and East Village than in other places citywide. In the Lower East Side and East Village, there were 82 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 10.1 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).:11 The Lower East Side and East Village have a low population of residents who are uninsured. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 11%, slightly less than the citywide rate of 12%.:14
The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in the Lower East Side and East Village is 0.0089 milligrams per cubic metre (8.9×10−9 oz/cu ft), more than the city average.:9 Twenty percent of Lower East Side and East Village residents are smokers, which is more than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.:13 In the Lower East Side and East Village, 10% of residents are obese, 11% are diabetic, and 22% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.:16 In addition, 16% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.:12
Eighty-eight percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is about the same as the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 70% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," less than the city's average of 78%.:13 For every supermarket in the Lower East Side and East Village, there are 18 bodegas.:10
The Lower East Side and East Village generally have a higher rate of college-educated residents than the rest of the city. A plurality of residents age 25 and older (48%) have a college education or higher, while 24% have less than a high school education and 28% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 64% of Manhattan residents and 43% of city residents have a college education or higher.:6 The percentage of Lower East Side and East Village students excelling in math rose from 61% in 2000 to 80% in 2011, and reading achievement increased from 66% to 68% during the same time period.
The Lower East Side and East Village's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is lower than the rest of New York City. In the Lower East Side and East Village, 16% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, less than the citywide average of 20%.:24 (PDF p. 55):6 Additionally, 77% of high school students in the Lower East Side and East Village graduate on time, more than the citywide average of 75%.:6
University Neighborhood Middle School (grades 5-8)
The Lower East Side Preparatory High School (LESPH) and Emma Lazarus High School (ELHS) are second-chance schools that enable students, aged 17–21, to obtain their high school diplomas. LESPH is a bilingualChinese-English school with a high proportion of Asian students. ELHS' instructional model is English-immersion with an ethnically diverse student body.
The Seward Park Campus comprises five schools with an average graduation rate of about 80%. The original school in the building was opened 1929 and closed 2006.
The New York Public Library (NYPL) operates two branches in the Lower East Side. The Seward Park branch is located at 4192 East Broadway. It was founded by the Aguilar Free Library Society in 1886, and the current three-story Carnegie library building was opened in 1909 and renovated in 2004. The Hamilton Fish Park branch is located at 415 East Houston Street. It was originally built as a Carnegie library in 1909, but was torn down when Houston Street was expanded; the current one-story structure was completed in 1960.
The Lower East Side is home to many private parks, such as La Plaza Cultural. There are several public parks in the area, including Sara D. Roosevelt Park between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets from Houston to Canal Streets, as well as Seward Park on Essex Street between Hester Street and East Broadway.
The East River shorefront contains the John V. Lindsay East River Park, a public park running between East 12th Street in the East Village and Montgomery Street in the Lower East Side. Planned for the waterfront is Pier 42, the first section of which is scheduled to open in 2021.
As of 2018[update], thirty-seven percent of roads in the Lower East Side have bike lanes.:10 Bike lanes are present on Allen, Chrystie, Clinton, Delancey, Grand, Houston, Montgomery, Madison, Rivington, Stanton, and Suffolk Streets; Bowery, East Broadway, and FDR Drive; the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges; and the East River Greenway.
^The division between the "West Farm" and the "East farm" ran approximately along today's Clinton Street, according to Eric Homberger, The Historical Atlas of New York City: a visual celebration of nearly 400 years 2005:60–61.
^Van Winkle, Edward; Vinckeboons, Joan; van Rensselaer, Kiliaen. Manhattan, 1624–1639 1916:13; Jacob, whose name was anglicised as "van Curler", leased it to William Hendriesen and Gysbert Cornelisson in September 1640; date given as "prior to 1640": "Corlears Park". Nycgovparks.org. November 17, 2001. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
^Nechtanc, in K. Scott and K. Stryker-Rodda, eds. New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, vol. 1 (Baltimore) 1974 and R.S. Grumet, Native American Place-Names in New York City (New York) 1981, both noted in Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City 2009:262.
^Edwin Francis Hatfield, Samuel Hanson Cox, Patient Continuance in Well-doing: a memoir of Elihu W. Baldwin, 1843:183.
^Edwin Francis Hatfield, Samuel Hanson Cox, Patient Continuance in Well-doing: a memoir of Elihu W. Baldwin, 1843:183f.
^Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms (1859): "hooker": 'A resident of the Hook, i.e. a strumpet, a sailor's trull. So called from the number of houses of ill-fame frequented by sailors at the Hook (i.e. Corlears Hook) in the city of New York" (quoted in the Online Etymology Dictionary); thus the usage precedes the Civil War and any supposed connection to Maj.-Gen. Joseph Hooker.
^Samuel Akerley, MD (Dudley Atkins, ed.) Reports of Hospital Physicians: and other documents in relation to the epidemic cholera (New York: Board of Health) 1832:112-49.
^See also Diner, Hasia; Shandler, Jeffrey; Wenger, Beth, eds. (2000), Remembering the Lower East Side. American Jewish reflections, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN0-253-33788-7 or Pohl, Jana (2006), "'Only darkness in the Goldeneh Medina?' Die Lower East Side in der US-amerikanischen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur", Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, 58 (3): 227–242, doi:10.1163/157007306777834546
^About, Henry Street Settlement. Accessed November 30, 2017. "Founded in 1893 by social work and public health pioneer Lillian Wald and based on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Henry Street Settlement delivers a wide range of social service, arts and health care programs to more than 60,000 New Yorkers each year."
^Steinetz, Rebecca. "Reviving the All-of-a-Kind Family books", The Boston Globe, December 13, 2014. Accessed November 30, 2017. "Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie may not have the name recognition of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, or Laura and Mary, but that could change, now that Lizzie Skurnick Books has reprinted four of the five All-of-a-Kind Family books, originally published between 1951 and 1978. For publisher Skurnick, whose imprint is devoted to reissuing out-of-print classic young-adult literature, reviving Sydney Taylor’s saga of five Jewish immigrant sisters growing up on New York’s Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century was a no-brainer."
^Schoemer, Karen. "Lowlife: It's a Life", The New York Times, February 21, 1993. Accessed November 30, 2017. "Luc Sante reveals the Lower East Side. As he roams the area, one of New York's oldest neighborhoods, buildings, doorways and details that would usually go unnoticed suddenly come into clear focus; a strange and vibrant life shows itself beneath the grime and residue of time.Mr. Sante's two books, Low Life and Evidence, bring this world to the page."
^Kirn, Walter. "Neighborhood Watch", The New York Times, March 16, 2008. Accessed November 30, 2017. "In Lush Life, Richard Price’s eighth novel, the resurfacing project that caps the same old potholes (and threatens to collapse in certain areas, potentially creating immense new craters capable of swallowing small crowds) targets the tangled, once tenement-lined streets of New York City’s Lower East Side. In Realtor-speak, the district is 'in transition,' which means in Police Department terms that its college-educated young renting class and bonus-gorged co-op-owning elite can still score narcotics from the old-guard locals, whose complexions are generally darker than the new folks’, making them easy to spot on party nights but tricky to ID in photo lineups come the red-eyed mornings after."
^ Welcome to Arroyo's by Kristoffer Diaz, Samuel French, Inc. Accessed November 30, 2017. "A sweet, loose-limbed shout out to Manhattan's Lower East Side…With a Greek chorus of DJs who 'mix' the play right in front of us, WELCOME shows that hip-hop can still goose mainstream theater instead of merely filling the diversity slot."
^Our History, Bloomingdale's. Accessed September 29, 2016. "A Store Is Born: To think it all started with a 19th century fad - the hoop skirt. That was the first item that Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale carried in their Ladies' Notions Shop in New York's Lower East Side."
^Groom, Winston. "A Gangster Goes to War", The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2010. Accessed September 29, 2016. "In New York right after the turn of the 20th century, the baddest man in the whole downtown was a thug named Monk Eastman, who controlled a gang of 2,000 Jewish hoodlums on Manhattan's Lower East Side."
^Acevedo, Carlos. "LIGHTNING EXPRESS: The Quick Rise & Even Quicker Fall of Al Singer", The Cruelest Sport, December 11, 2012. Accessed July 13, 2017. "Born in New York City on September 6, 1909, Al Singer spent his early years on the Lower East Side before his father, a successful businessman, moved the family to Pelham Parkway in the Bronx."
^Gringo, American Film Institute. Accessed November 4, 2017. "In the early 1980s, John Spacely is an unemployed heroin addict living on the streets of New York City’s Lower East Side, where he is known by the nickname, 'Gringo.'"
^Marsh, Julia. "Ousted Birdman producer counter-sues over dismissal", New York Post, October 15, 2014. Accessed July 9, 2017. "'It’s a shame that Worldview’s most successful film to date, Birdman, a legitimate Oscar contender, is being released the same week that we find ourselves engaged in a lawsuit,' said Christopher Woodrow, former CEO of Worldview Entertainment. The Lower East Side resident slapped his ex-business partner, Maria Cestone, and one of the firm’s major investors, Sarah Johnson, daughter of SF Giants owner Charles B. Johnson, with the Manhattan Supreme Court suit on Wednesday."