The Lower East Side, sometimes abbreviated as LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York Cityborough of Manhattan, roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street. Traditionally an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, it began rapid gentrification in the mid-2000s, prompting The National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America’s Most Endangered Places. It has become a home to upscale boutiques and trendy dining establishments along Clinton Street’s restaurant row.
James Delancey’s pre-Revolutionary farm east of post road leading from the city (Bowery) survives in the names Delancey Street and Orchard Street. On the modern map of Manhattan, the Delancey farm is represented in the grid of streets from Division Street north to Houston Street. In response to the pressures of a growing city, Delancey began to survey streets in the southern part of the “West Farm” in the 1760s. A spacious projected Delancey Square—intended to cover the area within today’s Eldridge, Essex, Hester and Broome Streets—was eliminated when the loyalist Delancey family’s property was confiscated after the American Revolution. The city Commissioners of Forfeiture eliminated the aristocratic planned square for a grid, effacing Delancey’s vision of a New York laid out like the West End of London, and established the resolutely democratic nature of the neighborhood forever.
This point of land on the East River was also called Corlaers Hook under Dutch and British rule, and briefly Crown Point during British occupation in the Revolution. It was named after the schoolmaster Jacobus van Corlaer, who settled on this “plantation” that in 1638 was called by a Europeanized version of its Lenape name, Nechtans or Nechtanc. Corlaer sold the plantation toWilhelmus Hendrickse Beekman (1623–1707) founder of the Beekman family of New York; his son Gerardus Beekman was christened at the plantation, August 17, 1653. The projection into the East River that retained Corlaer’s name was an important landmark for navigators for 300 years. On older maps and documents it is usually spelled ‘Corlaers’ Hook, but since the early 19th century the spelling has been anglicized to Corlears. The rough unplanned settlement that developed at Corlaer’s Hook under the British occupation of New York during the Revolution was separated from the densely populated city by rough hills of glacial till: “this region lay beyond the city proper, from which it was separated by high, uncultivated, and rough hills”, observers recalled in 1843.As early as 1816, Corlaer’s Hook was notorious for streetwalkers, “a resort for the lewd and abandoned of both sexes”, and in 1821 its “streets abounding every night with preconcerted groups of thieves and prostitutes” were noted by the “Christian Herald”. In the course of the 19th century they came to be called hookers. In the summer of cholera in New York, 1832, a two-storey wooden workshop was commandeered to serve as a makeshift cholera hospital; between July 18 and September 15 when the hospital was closed, as the cholera wound down, 281 patients were admitted, both black and white, of whom 93 died.
The original location of Corlears Hook is now obscured by shoreline landfill. It was near the east end of the present pedestrian bridge over the FDR Drive near Cherry Street. The name is preserved in Corlear’s Hook Park at the intersection of Jackson and Cherry Streets along the East River Drive.
East Village split and gentrification
In the early 2000s, the gentrification of the East Village spread to the Lower East Side, making it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Orchard Street, despite its “Bargain District” moniker, is now lined with upscale boutiques. Similarly, trendy restaurants, including Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, wd~50, Cube 63, and Falai are found on a stretch of tree-lined Clinton Street that New York Magazine described as the “hippest restaurant row” in the Lower East Side.
In November 2007, the Blue Condominium, a 32-unit, 16 story luxury condominium tower was completed at 105 Norfolk Street just north of Delancey Street, the pixellated, faceted blue design of which starkly contrasts with the surrounding neighborhood. Following the construction of the Hotel on Rivington one block away, several luxury condominiums around Houston, and the New Museum on Bowery, this new wave of construction is another sign that the gentrification cycle is entering a high-luxury phase similar to in SoHo andNolita in the previous decade.
More recently, the gentrification that was previously confined to north of Delancey Street continued south. Several restaurants, bars, and galleries opened below Delancey Street after 2005, especially around the intersection of Broome and Orchard Streets. The neighborhood’s second boutique hotel, Blue Moon Hotel, opened on Orchard Street just south of Delancey Street in early 2006. However, unlike The Hotel on Rivington, the Blue Moon used an existing tenement building, and its exterior is almost identical to neighboring buildings. In September 2013, it was announced that the Essex Crossing redevelopment project was to be built in the area, centered around the intersection of Essex and Delancey Streets, but mostly utilizing land south of Delancey Street.