Economy Eye Candy: An Eclectic Walk on the Lower East Side

The idea for the previous post about Isa Genzken's Rose II sculpture on the facade of the New Museum came about as the culmination of a colorful stroll through the East Village and Lower East Side, and here I'll sketch out some of the features that made it full of color. The walk takes in this area's characteristic visual funkiness and bright splashes of eclecticism, qualities that distinguish it from many other more uniform parts of the city. The images here are from the second part of the walk, primarily from Clinton and Rivington Streets.

A vintage purple metal glider sits in a lot on the southeast corner of Clinton and Stanton Streets.
The image is a little out of focus.

Technically, the East Village was for a long time considered part of the Lower East Side, but most people over the last few decades have agreed to set the southern boundary of the East Village and the northern boundary of the Lower East Side at E. Houston Street. Similarly, Houston St. divides SoHo from NoHo. It's not like crossing Houston Street implies a gateway into a radically different neighborhood, but the street is wide enough to establish some distinctions of place on either side. Yet, the presence of street art, murals, graffiti, and vernacular ornamentation makes parts of the East Village and Lower East Side seem more together than not. The visuals make this area often more entertaining to walk than the more visually cohesive neighborhoods like the West Village. I suppose it depends upon one's mood and personal tastes.

Alias Restaurant, 76 Clinton Street, at the intersection with Rivington Street.

Founded in 1980, ABC No Rio is an artist-run center committed to political engagement and activism.

Here's an example that may help illustrate my point. Over in Greenwich Village proper, on a street in the southern part below Washington Square Park, a restaurateur hired an artist to spray-paint a brightly colored scene of a fiesta along the bamboo wall outside his restaurant. The mural depicted palm trees and beaches and such. It was removed a month or so later after some locals complained it was "too East Village-y." This story circulated, and we all knew what it meant. In comparison to its eastern cousins, Greenwich Village, even its its bohemian glory, goes more for sedate dark green awnings and things that match. Spray-painted murals, the sentiment goes, should stay south and east.

Economy Candy, 108 Rivington St. A metaphor for the whole walk - cheap, fun, colorful, and sweet,
enough to hurt your teeth.

Freemans Alley. In the distance, Freeman's, a hideaway restaurant.

This walk itself begins in NoHo at the intersection of Broadway and Bond St. (E. 2nd) and passes through the East Village, the Lower East Side, the Bowery, Nolita, and SoHo. Personal favorites among the eclectic highlights - Blick Art Materials, 40 Bond (condo designed by Herzog and de Meuron), Albert's Garden, Anthology Film Archives, Clinton Street Baking Company, Congregation Chasam Sopher, Alias Restaurant (lots of good comfort food on this walk), ABC No Rio (see more in caption), Schiller's (the bar that has become a symbol of the area's youth and gentrification), Sugar Sweet Sunshine (the real kind of cupcakes), Economy Candy (especially), Jadis (good place for wine and snacks), Freeman's (one of the city's most romantic and hard-to-find restaurants), the New Museum, and then much of Prince Street, including Old St. Patrick's Cathedral and McNally Jackson Books. The walk is barely two miles, but obviously a lot of things are going on here, most of them colorful.

View NoHo, E. Village, Lower East Side, Nolita Walk in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from January 9, 2011.


unifiedspace said...

Brilliant post and I especially enjoyed it as I visited this area last April (from Scotland) and was so inspired by the colours too. I got some of my best photos from a very similar walk. Thanks for reminding me.

Teri Tynes said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to hear about visitors exploring this area, as I think the Lower East Side should be on more people's New York itineraries. So many people stick to Midtown. This is a great neighborhood, full of details worth appreciating. Glad you are of the adventurous sort, camera in hand.

Pascale said...

Every single time I am in NYC I pay a visit to Economy Candy and check out the new graffiti in Freeman's Alley... it's tradition now !

BaHa said...

Oh, how I wish they'd stick to midtown; I can't walk on my own block on the weekends. (Not that I don't appreciate your very well-done post!)

Anton Deque said...

Lovely post Teri. You are unafraid to show reality (like Hogarth). Safety? I have felt less safe in small rural towns in England on Saturday nights than in New York. Usual common sense applies. Go in numbers, know where you are going, dress down and leave the Rolex behind.

Teri Tynes said...

Anton, I don't think I mentioned safety. This area is fine most all the time and well-traveled. I don't even think about it. Actually, while I was on this walk, I stopped into a small coffee shop, and a couple of hipster fashionistas were hogging the benches with their coats. I said I wanted to sit down - pointing to the seat that had their stuff draped over it. They got all put out and actually said, "but we have to move our stuff!" I then grew actually concerned for their safety.

Teri Tynes said...

BaHa - I feel your pain. On weekends, I have a hard time walking home from Broadway near Prince or Spring Street, as the shoppers make it impossible to pass.

Anton Deque said...

"I then grew actually concerned for their safety".

I think I must have misunderstood BaHa. But, Teri, surely you won't thinking of 'taking matters into your own hands' ...? (Don't call me Shirley. I know, I know.)

Teri Tynes said...

No, just kidding, Anton.