My LES – K Webster
This weekly feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. If you know someone you would like to suggest be featured in “My LES,” please email us here.
This week’s LES-er is K Webster, a community organizer and long-time resident of the Lower East Side. She’s also the publisher of the BoweryGals blog, a site focused on “the goings on about the neighborhood of the Bowery.” I met her at the snow-filled M’Finda Kalunga garden on Rivington between Chrystie and Forsyth, where she had been feeding the chickens.
What do you do?
I’m the mom of a wonderful son and until last year, the primary caretaker of my mom who struggles with dementia (and the bravest person I know). I also Co-Chair, with Debra Glass, the M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden along with our partner Kim Fong of the BRC senior nutrition center. I am Chair of the Chinatown Working Group Education/School working team. I’ve recently joined the team of bloggers with the Park51 Islamic Center. I’m a peer counselor and recently finished work on the Emmy winning series “We Are New York” a TV “soap opera” that assists English language learners. I make Toy Theaters and write. One day a week I feed and care for our chickens (at M’Finda Kalunga) – so I pretend I’m a farmer.
How long have you lived on the LES?
I’ve been on the Lower East Side about 30 some years.
Favorite date spot in the hood?
Dates: The Garden at M’Finda Kalunga.
Favorite coffee in the hood?
I’m Irish Heritage so I drink tea! Kam Hing is my favorite, though most any Chinatown bakery uses real cream and black tea. In summer- bubble tea with cream.
Favorite slice in the hood?
Rays Pizza on Prince.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
Eldridge Street Museum, any LES community garden, Economy Candy, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, La Mama, St. Augustine’s Church, Asian Arts Center, Dixon Place, Katz Deli, Pho Bang, Congee Bowery, the bridge and walks through the neighborhood…
Favorite dive/locals bar in the hood?
The Bowery Poetry Club for music and poetry.
What sorts of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?
Well the obvious –many long-time, low-income neighbors have been pushed out. There’s less sky. Bars have mushroomed – few as gathering places of neighbors. Few inexpensive diners or grocery stores left. A lot of the quirky, authentic “institutions” have been “revitalized” out of existence: CBGB’s, Tonic, Amato Opera, a Synagogue on Rivington, McGurks Dance Hall, Kate Millet, Ratners, many bodegas, etc.
The remaining enclaves that know their culture in their bones work harder to keep their communities visible. Artists (and the institutions that grow organically to serve them and their fans) are replaced with a corporate version of high-end culture. Instead of deeply rooted communities, some days it can feel like the thin backdrop to someone else’s movie.
But…the people, unique small businesses (new and old), music, theater, art and poetry spaces, our many CBO’s, parks, gardens and schools still make us a distinctive neighborhood and home.
Favorite LES memory?
My son’s arrival.
The first date with my husband at Café Roma (good canolis too).
A one-person show at La Mama by John Kelly, the Countertenor, as the Mona Lisa – unforgettable.
The first Toy Theater show at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.
A white egret floating across the Bowery.
And from the garden:
The blessing over the site of the African burial ground by Deacon Hopper.
The first Moon Festival–scores of tiny lights from children’s lanterns fanning out over the dark expanse like fireflies.
Chinatown Y campers holding worms one minute and a fresh warm chicken egg the next.
Klezmer outside the sukkah.
Thelma, Bob, Roy and I trying to catch a rooster in the garden.
The opening speeches from the Marte Valle young people on their mosaic sculptures.