Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger

If you're over 30, you may want to stay out of the Lower East Side after 10 p.m. If you're under 30, try not to puke in the street.

By Julie Inzanti  | February 6, 2013 - 9:02AM

The Lo-Down was founded in 2009 by filmmaker Traven Rice and former network news producer Ed Litvak. It's a community news web site with an accompanying monthly print magazine for the Lower East Side.

Typical posts run the gamut from crime, real estate, and big development issues to the arts, food, nightlife…but primarily focus on the hyper-local neighborhood change and gentrification.

The Lo-Down has doubled their readership every year since 2009 and currently averages about 150,000 views a month. In 2012, the founders launched a monthly print magazine to complement the blog. It's distributed to over 10,000 homes and throughout the neighborhood in shops, cafes and community centers. The long-form print articles allow the founders to explore specific neighborhood issues.

1. What would you tell someone moving to the Lower East Side?

Start exploring the history of this neighborhood and you'll be peeling back layers of fascinating stories about many different cultures that all came here to establish a new life...and it continues today....

If you are over 30, stay away from the area around Ludlow and Rivington Streets after 10 p.m. — it's a rowdy, drunken mess.  

If you are under 30, it's quite a scene around there at night — enjoy! (But try to keep your imbibing indoors and try not to puke on the street.)  

2. Where are the best deals in the neighborhood in terms of real estate?

The Grand Street co-ops are the best deal around. They are still selling for below market rates and offer more space than your average Manhattan apartment. Just don’t get any current residents started on those Shabbos elevators!

You can't beat Chinatown for cheap eats. We like the hand-pulled noodle soups at Lam Zhou on East Broadway. El Castillo on Rivington serves great Spanish food. Cheeky's on Orchard serves up excellent po' boy sandwiches. And Via Tribunali on Ludlow makes the best brick oven pizza in the area.

You can still catch plenty of live music for the price of a drink or two at a lot of great venues: Fontana's, Rockwood, Cake Shop, Arlene’s Grocery and the Living Room (although the Living Room will be relocating soon...).

3. Where is the most coveted location within the neighborhood to live?

The Forward Building is still hard to beat. Tatum O’Neal may not live there anymore but don’t let that deter you! The apartments in this beautiful landmark have amazing views. And given the building’s history as a center of American Socialism, it’s the perfect place to plan a coup!

4. Do you have a dream building in the neighborhood?

The historic Jarmulowsky Bank Building is being converted into a boutique hotel by Ron Castellano, the same guy who restored The Forward building. The place has been deserted for several years, so it’s great to see some new life in a building that just became a NYC landmark a couple of years ago.

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

 The Blue building still sticks out like a (giant) sore thumb. But it's been around long enough now to have become a part of the landscape.

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

The leadership at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a synagogue that has been a NYC landmark since 1967, is asking the Landmarks Commission for permission to demolish the building. They want to put up a condo building with room for the synagogue on the ground floor. Preservation groups are up in arms.

7. How has the neighborhood changed in the past 5 years?

The gallery scene is booming. James Fuentes, Ivisible Exports, Eleven Rivington, On Stellar Rays, Sperone Westwater are all considered super stars. More clubs and more expensive restaurants have arrived. It's the age of the club/restaurant with Hotel Chantell, The DL, Sons of Essex, Beauty & Essex and the gigantic club/restaurant space that just opened at 199 Bowery - EMM Group’s The General/FINALE/BOW.  It's become even more of a nightlife destination. Not to mention LeBaron...  Needless to say, this has driven real estate prices up -- dramatically.  The debate about gentrification has intensified.

For the next five...One word: SPURA. The Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project will change the area dramatically. Developers are submitting proposals now. We’ve seen a flurry of building sales around the development site in the past few months. Everyone wants a piece of the action.

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

In NYC?  Is there one left...?   Some say Venice Beach is like the L.E.S. of Los Angeles.

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

The Upper East Side! Man, those streets are clean (where's the street art?) and it's pretty darn quiet up there at night.

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

Being so completely immersed in every aspect of the community does occasionally lead us to wonder about the potential burn-out factor...but yes, it still feels like one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the world.

11. If not, where would you want to go?
Somewhere foreign with a mild climate where we could live happily ever after as ex-pats...

12. What is one of the biggest misconceptions about the neighborhood?
If you walk down Rivington Street on Saturday night, you might think the Lower East Side is one big tourist attraction...nothing but bars and clubs.  

Walk a few blocks below Delancey Street or in the direction of Chinatown and you’ll see the LES is still a really diverse place.

See all Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger

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