Gentrification is, by definition, both an end and a beginning. And if we walk through the Lower East Side today, like the Roman God Janus, we can see its past and future – its death by gentrification.
I’m a photographer with a passion for the built environment and was introduced to the Lower East Side in 2011. I lived directly across the street from the Bialystoker Synagogue on Willet Street (although the address was Grand Street). The LES is such a great little piece of living New York City history and I love walking it’s crumbling sidewalks and admiring it’s equally crumbling architecture.
But the gentrification was already underway when I got there. Tucked away among the little stores, restaurants, apartments and barber shops, upscale boutique restaurants were making themselves felt with prices and menus that could only be supported from clientele outside the neighborhood.
So I returned for a photographic walkabout to capture what I feel is the essence of the Lower East Side character. In these black and white photographs, you can still see vestiges of the early days; the decayed store fronts and once proud architecture and businesses that have vanished and others still clinging barely to life.
So before it’s full of Starbucks, trendy bars and soulless new apartment buildings hoisted on the foundations of its receding history, I offer my little photographic homage to one of New York’s greatest little neighborhoods, the Lower East Side.
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Enjoy, Bob Estremera