LESPI Blog

Save the Lower East Side: A National Treasure Under Siege

There’s nothing ordinary about the Lower East Side.
The LES has long been a cauldron of cultures, people, and ideas, and once the densest place on earth—more densely populated than what was then Calcutta. From the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, as we document here, the LES was simultaneously a confounding challenge of immense poverty and human need and a hotbed of social ferment and vaulting idealism. Read More

Immigration and Transformation

By Deborah Wye

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A look back at the struggles and triumphs of the early immigrant period can offer a new understanding of the present. That era tells a quintessential American story of cultural reckoning that still resonates today. Read More

Lower East Side: Progressive Pioneer

brutishly By Phyllis Eckhaus

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Paris had its Belle Epoque. Harlem had its Renaissance. At the turn of the 20th century, the Lower East Side helped birth a paradigm shift of equal moment—the progressive reworking of the social contract. Read More

Tenements: Save, Don’t Scorn

By Phyllis Eckhaus

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Jacob Riis—author of How the Other Half Lives, the powerful 1890 anti-tenement tract—was such an effective propagandist that even today his work obscures the vitality, significance, and beauty of many historic Lower East Side streetscapes and buildings. Read More