Editor's Note: New York's Lower East Side has historically been an immigrant working class neighborhood. Over the past dozen years it has been transformed by gentrification and a ubiquitous nightlife scene that caters to affluent young whites who have little or no ties to the neighborhood. As another weekend of pub-crawling begins, a longtime resident of the neighborhood shares her thoughts on what it's like to live amid such changes.
Walking home through the Lower East Side on any night, but especially a weekend night is a hellish experience. It seems we are 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 women in high heels who are higher on a feeling of entitlement and inflated self-importance than they are on the eight margaritas they had. On their own all these things are fine, but when every single doorway opens to a bar that caters to the wealthy and pretend wealthy, and there is virtually no night life except for that which you pay, 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 – “No, not all just these ones in particular." It’s funny in the 1970s 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 Street.
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 herd of wildebeests, the escaped suburban female trample the streets of the Lower East Side with her 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. 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," my friend said.
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 in the Lower East Side during 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 10 years if the tide doesn’t turn? I don’t know what can stop a wave like that.
This article originally appeared at momsrinconcito.com.