For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with Jasmin Sanchez, who runs the Ana Luisa Garcia Community Center.
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
I have resided on the Lower East Side since 1979. I am entering my 35th year in this community.
Why did you move here or, if you were born here, why did you stay?
My grandparents migrated from Puerto Rico in 1959. I stayed living here because I want to contribute to the development of my community.
What do you do?
I operate my own organization, the Ana Luisa Garcia Community Center. I do this on a volunteer basis since the agency has not received funding. I am a program director at Park Slope Collegiate Middle School in Brooklyn.
Tell us about your apartment–the good, the bad and the ugly.
I currently reside in Baruch Houses, a New York City Housing Authority complex. My apartment is not in the greatest condition. I have mold, water damage and leaks in the bathroom, and NYCHA hasn’t repaired my apartment even after several demands from the courts.
What’s your favorite spot on the LES and why?
My favorite spot on the Lower East Side would be the East River Park, field No. 7. It is very relaxing and it is wonderful to just gaze at the water and Williamsburg Bridge.
Favorite cheap eats?
Mancora, which is located on First Avenue and Sixth Street. The brunch menu (before 3 p.m. on weekdays) is delicious and affordable, $8.95.
Favorite place for a special night?
Sazon’s restaurant on Reade Street. I know it is not the Lower East Side, but their food brings me back to my roots in Puerto Rico. I celebrate my birthday there every year since it has been open. I [also] normally go to El Castillo de Jagua restaurant or Cibao restaurant.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
I have seen local mom-and-pop shops displaced due to the rent on their stores increasing. Essex Street and Clinton Street remind me of South Beach without the beach. It is a place where people visit without regard to those who live in the community.
What do you miss from the old LES?
I miss the familiarity of the stores, the people. I miss Apolo’s, Lucky’s, Kique’s Joyeria and Bunnies. I know my mother and grandmother would say the Cuchifritos. I do miss walking down the streets peacefully. I do not like seeing crowds of people lingering in front of establishments, smoking and being very loud at all hours of the night.
I miss the variety of the community. Our stores sold very different items: household goods, hardware store, shoe place, bakeries, clothing stores for kids, another for teens and adults. Everything you needed was easily accessible in our neighborhood. Now we have 10 nail salons and five hair salons, all a store apart. There is an abundance of lounges. Totally takes away the feel of a community.
Is there a new arrival (restaurant, shop, attraction) you love? Why?
No. I continue to only support mom-and-pop shops that have been in the community since I was a child.
What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?
The thing that drives me crazy are the evenings when bars and lounges are open and the people outside are smoking, congesting the streets and speaking very loudly.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the LES?
The strangest thing I have seen was a series of knitted bicycles [by the artist Olek] throughout the community in bright colors. It was strange but really pretty.
Who’s the best neighborhood character you’ve met and why?
Rev. Leo Lawrence from Dewitt Reformed Church. He is compassionate and friendly. Greeting all residents that pass by the church and he meets throughout the community. He is a perfect example of what a dedicated, loyal, loving, caring and productive member of society is.
Tell us your best LES memory.
My best memory would have to be attending P.S. 142 as a child and my grandmother bringing me lunch at school. There used to be a bakery that sold everything across the street from P.S. 142 — now there’s a pawn shop. All the parents would go there and buy Jello, cookies and sandwiches. I miss my old Lower East Side.