Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I've opened this blog to discuss what's happening to the LES and consider whether any of its mixed community, counterculture and heritage can be saved against the onslaught of luxury development. Although the character of the community has already been irretrievably altered, there's still something here worth holding on to.

I moved from uptown down here to 11th Street between B & C in the 1970's. I knew as soon as I arrived that this was the place for me, and I've lived here ever since. The LES was not just different then -- it was like a different planet. It was rough, but I miss the way it was. It had character.

Now we have a Duane Reade on Avenue B. Is life worth living?

No kidding.

I've been busy over the last year learning about the legal and municipal underpinnings of the LES. We're about to be rezoned here, and the rezoning plan looks to be pretty good. There are some controversial elements to the new zoning, and I expect to have plenty of opportunity to explain them here. That's a big part of my goal in creating this blog: I'm hoping it will provide LES residents with a place to find reliable information on the neighborhood, and not just a place to share perspectives.

I run a network called Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development (LESRRD). The name is meant to sound "responsible" to disguise its underlying subversive goal: to prevent the old LES from being swept away by developers and commercial speculators (that's code for trendy bars). LESRRD has promoted or collaborated in a bunch of projects including the LES Alliance, which held a very successful Town Hall meeting November 2005 on bar proliferation. Right now LESRRD is focused on community preservation -- keeping as much of the old, marginal, funky and ethnically mixed LES alive.

The heart of LESRRD is an e-mail notification service. I send out bulk e-mails about the serious events and meetings that affect the future of the neighborhood. I also organize actions through the list network. I'm always looking for more addresses to add to LESRRD. The volume is not heavy -- two or three posts per week. If you're interested in what's happening down here, send me your address and I'll hook you up --

Education preserves; LESRRD is actively engaged in educating people about the LES. One of my happiest projects has been, in collaboration with East Village Community Media, historical guided tours of the East Village. (I usually reject the name "East Village" as a realtor's invention, but it's sometimes convenient to distinguish the LES north of Houston from the LES south of Houston. The two areas have distinct histories although by the 1860's they had merged as the tenements built for new immigrants spread north from Five Points over both neighborhoods.) I lead walking tours every Saturday and Sunday. They are heavy on the social history told through the architecture, but on the way there are plenty of colorful stories and neighborhood secrets as well. If you're interested in the tours, contact me at For a complete schedule of all the East Village Community Media tours visit their website, EVCM has been a great community resource, run by one of the truly dedicated lifelong LES residents, a man of infinite heart, Eric Ferrara. Honor to work with you, Eric!

There's actually a whole bunch of wonderful folks involved in one way or another in saving the LES. There's even a Coalition to Save the East Village full of just the best EV folks you could hope to know. I'm expecting all those characters to make their appearance here from time to time.

I don't know if my antique web browser will support this blog, so don't be surprised if I disappear or take a while to respond on blog.