Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger

Bowery Boogie: The LES is not the Lower Eastpacking District

By Julie Inzanti  | December 6, 2012 - 12:07PM

With an average of 80,000 unique visitors per month, Bowery Boogie is the largest site covering Lower East Side news and the lifestyles of its residents. The content is a combination of hard-hitting news coverage and lifestyle stories all with a dash of wit.

The blog--voted Best Neighborhood Blog in the 2011 Village Voice Web Awards--was founded by two childhood friends--Elie Z. Perler and Dave Gustav--in the summer of 2008. They had always been involved with creative projects that tend to be webcentric. Perler started blogging about things he saw during neighborhood walkabouts and Gustav pitched in, with a constantly evolving layout and technical infrastructure.

It has been a labor of love for both, and they are constantly testing new ideas, seeing what their audience responds to the most and finding ways to combine the local neighborhood news with their other passions associated with the neighborhood like music, street art, and pop culture. Bowery Boogie was also instrumental in mobilizing volunteers during and post-Sandy and they donated their November advertising inventory to local businesses struggling due to the storm.

Perler answered a few questions from BrickUnderground about the duo's home turf:

1. What would you tell someone moving in?

Respect the neighborhood and its surroundings. People were here before you, and will be here after you leave. Take a trip to the Tenement Museum and learn some background history. Read Bowery Boogie.

If you haven't yet found a place, start the search before heading to brokers. Spend the time walking the streets of the neighborhood, talk to store owners, and ask around. Call the "For Rent" signs hanging on so many buildings. Lots of these units aren't published on Craigslist or in broker databases.

2. Where are the best deals in the neighborhood in terms of real estate? What about in terms of dining/entertainment?

Rule of thumb is the further south you go, the better chance of finding deals. Chinatown and its immediate LES borders have their fair share but you gotta dig deep and be prepared to talk shop.

Some of our favorite casual cheap eats include Downtown Bakery (Mexican), Tre (Italian), Stanton Pizza (best slice), and Olympic Restaurant (sticky-menu diner).

For nightlife we enjoy activities that don’t involve big bouncers, bigger drink costs, and the biggest stretch limos filled with screaming B&T crowds. Some of that entertainment includes underground performances and shows like Seth Herzog’s “Sweet” and the “Speakeasy Dollhouse.”

3. What’s your favorite location within the neighborhood to live?

Favorite location would have to be within the vicinity of Seward Park, where it still has that OG LES feel. Also, trees are a rarity on the Lower East Side, so convenient access to semi-public park space is a great amenity.

4. Do you have a dream building?

Yes, 190 Bowery. Artist Jay Maisel has the coolest building in the neighborhood, and we'd love to live or work there. Just give us a room or two...

5. Any buildings that feel out of place with the feel of the neighborhood?

For a neighborhood that has a history rooted in low-rise tenement dwellings, it’s always -- shall we say mildly unpleasant? -- to see glass structures looming over the historic architecture.

There are really too many to count, but the obvious examples would be - Blue condo, the Ludlow Residence, 180 Ludlow, and the Thompson LES. Oh, not to mention the plethora of stalled-out eyesores.

6. Any real estate related controversy brewing or currently happening in your neighborhood?

It’s amazing how stories that seem innocuous on the surface have ended up being some of the most controversial. Two recent ones of note include the closure of Pathmark on Cherry Street, and the bait-and-switch tactics of EMM Group in opening their 199 Bowery mega-club.

As is stands, the Pathmark at 227 Cherry has been serving the community of Two Bridges for thirty years. That's all ending come 2013, and many residents are mourning the loss of a budget supermarket within walking distance. People are also fearful that replacing Pathmark with an upscale grocery market or another towering development will hurt the neighborhood.

EMM appeared before Community Board 3 to receive approval for one nightlife concept, and since then has opened a venue with multiple concepts and three liquor licenses, when only two were applied for at the get-go.

These stories may not get ink in larger publications, but they are seriously affecting the daily lives of neighborhood residents.

7. How has the neighborhood changed in the past 5 years? How do you think it’ll change in the next 5?

Just looking back on the stories we’ve published over the last 4.5 years, it’s mind-blowing how much turnover there has been. The influx of hotels and large nightclubs is also significant.

Sadly, the result is a loss of that Lower East Side character that attracts all these moneyed investors here in the first place. Buildings are being torn down in favor of hotels, and big nightlife is taking over. Both industries cater to transients, making it harder to preserve a sense of identity beyond the “Lower Eastpacking” moniker that gives us chest pains to even contemplate.

Hopefully in the next five years we will see an increase in resident groups who challenge a system that has allowed club owners to create venues at the expense of the community.

8. What do you think your “sister” neighborhood might be?

Much of the creative element and the hipster hangers-on decamped for Brooklyn long ago. Some might say any of the first dozen stops along the L line, from Williamsburg to Bushwick.

9. Which neighborhood feels like the opposite of your neighborhood?

Ordinarily we would say the Meatpacking District, but these days the Lower East Side is mimicking this same oversaturated club vibe. So, to answer your question, Murray Hill.

10. Would you stay in this neighborhood forever if you could?

Yes. Until the day comes when we stop being inquisitive creatives on the quest for inspiration and unique experiences, we can’t imagine being anywhere else.

11. What is one of the biggest misconceptions about the neighborhood?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the Lower East Side is only here for nightlife. There's plenty of action happening here day and night that doesn’t revolve around clubs.

See all Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger

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