The Bowery Boys Tour of NYC’s Historical Lower East Side | LOCALS. | Travel + Leisure


GREG: New York City… …this can be a very daunting place. There are 8.6 million people. TOM: There’s more than 800 languages. There are 12,000 places to get a drink… …there are 24,000 places to be fed! GREG: There’s just like
so much sensory overload… …it can be absolutely crazy. TOM: And that’s why we’re going
to take you to… … our favorite neighborhood,
the Lower East Side. GREG: This is really a
microcosm of New York City… …to understand the Lower East Side… …is to understand the city as a whole. TOM: So Greg and I host a
biweekly podcast… …called the Bowery Boys… …which is all about New York City history… …and we started it right here
in this neighborhood. GREG: In a way we start the
podcast in 2007 to kind of like… …get a grasp on our own streets
and the places where we lived… …and the things that we
saw every single day. GREG: This is really hard to believe Tom… …but in 2010 there were
about 71,000 residents… …in this area that we’re calling
the Lower East Side today. But a hundred years before that… …there were over half a million people. It was the most densely
populated neighborhood on Earth. One of the most important aspects
to New York City’s personality… …are all these immigrant communities who
began coming to New York… …starting in the 1830s. TOM: The Irish, then the German, Italian,
and then the Eastern European… …and Jewish populations. Millions of them settled in the Lower
East Side and many of them lived… …in tenement buildings just like this. KAT: We are now in our newest
exhibit… …called “Under One Roof.” This is a tour that you can
take any day of the week… …here on the Lower East Side. So we’re looking at how
three very different families… …live in one building over the second
half of the 20th century… …and what their experiences were like. We invited these families back to help us
tell their family story in a museum. So Bella Epstein returned to this building
after about 50 years away… …and the first thing that Bella did
when she came back to this space… …was go up to this window, would
have looked out onto an air shaft… …and yells “Rosetta!” TOM: Her old friend? KAT: Her old friend, right? She had a best friend in the building… …Rosetta di Benedetto,
who was the daughter- TOM: Italian. KAT: Italian immigrants. Exactly. And
Bella and Rosetta became really close… …friends even though they had
different religions. Their parents… …spoke different languages. So you’ve got this really interesting
dynamic that runs through… …Lower East Side history, of the
second generation figuring out… …what they have in common with each
other across their parents’ differences. GREG: Thousand and thousands of
people lived on this block alone. TOM: It makes you understand then why
there were so many bars in the neighborhood. There were German-operated beer gardens
and saloons and… …these were places you know that people
in the neighborhood would go to at night… …because they just wanted to
get out of their apartments. So we decided to take a little break. GREG: Beer break as we do. TOM: Here at Café Katja which
is an Austrian-themed bar and… …restaurant that opened in 2007. GREG: Would this kind of
experience have existed… …in the 19th century, late
19th century perhaps? TOM: Well, remember that there were
hundreds of thousands of Germans… …who were immigrating
through this neighborhood. A lot of times people didn’t want to
stay in the buildings too long… …they wanted to get out,
they wanted to go someplace. So they came to places like this.
They came to restaurants that… …served food that they
knew from their homeland. GREG: Yeah a little bit of that
tradition still remains… …in the Lower East Side. GREG: If you’ve seen the movie
“When Harry Met Sally”… …you know a lot about
Katz’s Deli. “Yes! YES! YES! Ahhh!” “I’ll have what she’s having.” GREG: Katz’s is indicative
of the Jewish deli style… …that thrived here in the late 19th century
and early 20th century. TOM: Probably the most famous eatery
on the Lower East Side that dates… …all the way back to 1888. GREG: Russ & Daughters, which has been
in this neighborhood, actually been… …on this spot since 1914. TOM: Yeah, celebrating 104 years. And Russ & Daughters is a great example of
of an appetizing deli that serves fish and dairy. This block of Orchard north
of Delancey is interesting… …because it’s part of the old
Lower East Side Bargain District. There’s still some vendors here where
you can pick up luggage or clothing… …and you can even bargain with them. GREG: Yeah, I actually come here
all the time for luggage. TOM: All the time? How often
do you buy luggage? GREG: Well, you know when I
need luggage… …I have a lot of baggage. TOM: Oh. Now, we’re gonna take you inside a
family-run business that’s been operating… …in this neighborhood since the 1930s. Let’s go to Economy Candy. MITCHELL: There’s over 2000 different
varieties of candies, chocolates… …dried fruits, nuts. If they
make it, we have it. TOM: Yeah walking around in the store
and seeing all of these older candies… …candies from yesteryear, it’s
a little bit like time travel. MITCHELL: My Dad likes to say “Oh
my Dad was a terrible buyer… “…it’s just left over from the ’30s.” But you know we– TOM: That’s not true.
MITCHELL: Not true! Not true! It’s really stepping back into the past,
forget your worries at the door… …you’re surrounded by candy and
you can still get it for almost a penny. We give out samples of halvah to the local
tourists and they’re like… …”What the hell is this?” This is the Lower East Side.
It’s crushed sesame, honey… … it’s different, but it is what
people ate on the Lower East Side. TOM: Economy Candy is a store that
has actually seen the neighborhood change. MITCHELL: In the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s, my
grandfather would tell stories about… …how everyone helping each other, making
sure to look out for each other. In the ’70s and ’80s it wasn’t
really that great down here. Early 2000s we started getting
hotels that popped up… …hotels brought restaurants,
restaurants brought bars. You know it’s really totally
changed the neighborhood. TOM: When we first moved in 20 years ago,
Gertel’s Bakery was still on Hester… …now it’s a condo. Across the street from it is a cat boutique! Where you can literally pay to go pet felines. GREG: But! If there’s one thing we’ve learned,
since we’ve started recording our podcast. It’s that neighborhoods, in
New York City especially… …neighborhoods are constantly changing. MITCHELL: With the business going out, it
kind of lost a lot of that neighborhood… …relationship with everybody. There’s not everyone on the
streets to see each other- TOM: People do spill out onto
the streets on Saturday night. MITCHELL: You do not want to be around
here after nine o’clock… …’cause that’s when the bar scene happens. TOM: We have stumbled through that.
GREG: Yeah, yeah. TOM: Many, many music venues
still carry on this live music tradition… …that has existed in the Lower East Side
since the 1960s. GREG: The Lower East Side is quite renowned
for launching a lot of musical careers. People like… …Lady Gaga. TOM: Right, in a lot of different musical
venues that are still operating today. There’s Arlene’s Grocery. There’s The Bowery Ballroom, of course. Mercury Lounge, where
The Strokes were discovered. GREG: The 1960s and 1970s
brought us punk music… …art music and lots of artists who lived
and worked here on the Lower East Side. Artists like the Ramones, Blondie, and
The Velvet Underground. TOM: It was in this building in 1965 that
Lou Reed and John Cale got together… …and created what would become
The Velvet Underground. GREG: On this corner of Ludlow and Rivington
is very important to Beastie Boys fans. The 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique” featured
on the front of the album cover… …this corner. We’ve stopped to have a cocktail
at Piano’s… …one of the best music venues here. TOM: I think it’s fair to say that the Lower
East Side has never been… …a more popular destination. TOM: As you can see, the story of the
Lower East Side is the story of immigrants. It’s the story of America. GREG: So thank you for joining us on
this tour of the Lower East Side. You may like our podcast if you’ve liked what
you’ve seen. You can find it wherever… …you find your podcasts. TOM: Thanks for joining us
on this walking tour. GREG: Have a great New York week
whether you live here or not. TOM: See you real soon.

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