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.

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