Editor's Note: It's Friday night and hordes of privileged young pub crawlers from around the New York City area are making their way to the Lower East Side. Historically a neighborhood of working class immigrants, the Lower East Side has gentrified rapidly in the past decade and is now packed with bars and restaurants – more than 50 alone in one nine-square block area. For long-time residents, the weekend revelry is more to be endured than enjoyed as one local blogger explains.
Walking home through the Lower East Side on any night, but especially a weekend night is a hellish experience. It seems we're now stuck babysitting the privileged children of Middle America as they wade in their own puke and stupidity. Try as you might to not let it bother you it’s impossible not to feel rage, and then depression. So potent is the annoyance factor it’s even awoken latent sexism in me, a lifelong feminist.
I half jokingly say to a friend that in my totalitarian society women would not be allowed to walk down the street in groups.
“That’s ridiculous the men are just as bad,” he says.
He’s right of course, but tonight there are hordes of drunken, high-heeled barflies higher on a feeling of entitlement and inflated self importance than they are on eight margaritas they had. On their own all these things are fine, but when every-single doorway is a bar that caters to the wealthy and pretend wealthy, and there is virtually no night life except for that one you must pay for, this is the result. Even my seven-year-old remarks, “Mom drunk girls are so annoying” as he notices the stumbling, cackling, howling, attempts at getting attention.
What can I say? It’s not like I disagree. It's funny in the '70s and '80s there was another group of women that dressed just like this one, but businesses didn’t cater to them and they were far less pushy and annoying, they were the hookers who frequented Delancey and Forsyth Streets.
Maybe it would help if we thought of it as a nature show, we’re studying the mating habits of the North American suburban exodus. Much like a heard of wildebeests, the escaped suburban female trample the streets of the Lower East Side with their hooves, I mean stilettos. Oh look there’s a felled one, don’t worry maybe the rest of the herd will retrieve her, maybe not. The street is swaying with the stumbling bumbling, screaming, mass of dressed up high-heeled partiers; and then I spot the police ticketing a man I recognize from the neighborhood for drinking a beer. Tell me that we don’t live in two separate cities. I hate living in Times Square, of course this isn’t Times Square, Times Square might well be less annoying than the Lower East Side at this point.
A friend, a tenant organizer from back in the '70s and '80s tells me about a recent night out where she could not get past some revelers she said to them: “In New York we have rule step to the side and let people pass.”
As the group began to laugh and heckle her she decided to ignore them not wanting to get into an altercation. “They don’t hear us, anyway” She told me.
Here is a woman who organized rent strikes, who spent countless winters without heat while a slumlord tried to abandon the property, she prevailed eventually buying the building with her co-tenants, now shareholders, and she can’t get simple respect from people who never would have set foot here in those days. I say my line to her about how we’re babysitting middle America’s children and she nods in agreement.
Not that things are much better in the daytime, then you must dodge the suddenly ubiquitous joggers and citibikers, ringing their little bells at you. Where the hell did they all come from? Why are they all suddenly here?
A conversation with a professor, terrifies me, in my short sightedness I’ve only thought of the ones that are already here.
“My daughter and all her friends want to move the Lower East Side, when they graduate, there is no other place they are thinking of.”
I hadn’t stopped to consider how many more of them there could be, the fact that there is an endless supply, that it could be even worse than it is. What will it look like in ten years if the tide doesn’t turn? I don’t know what can stop a wave like that.
Maria Muentes is the author of Mom's Rinconcito, a blog written by a Latina mother living in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.