This weekly feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. If you would like to participate in “My LES”, please email us here.
I run UncommonGoods, an online and catalog store featuring creatively designed products. I am also working with a group of neighborhood volunteers to help restore Luther Gulick (Sheriff) Park on Delancey and Bialystoker Streets. I’m on the board of advisors of CDI, a non-profit that I helped start. We’re trying to help 17-22 year-old public high school students graduate and achieve their full potential. I also try to keep our two boisterous boys, Evan, age 9, and Drew, age 6, out of trouble.
How long have you lived on the LES?
Since 1985, though I lived on Avenue A and 4th Street from 1963 to 1971.
Favorite block in the hood?
East Broadway just east of Rutgers Street – love the Seward Park library, the park itself and the open space. I hope the fountain on Essex gets restored soon.
Favorite date spot in the hood?
In my living room with Barbara, the girl I met on the Jersey Shore in 1989, with a bowl of popcorn watching a movie.
Favorite coffee in the hood?
I’d take a black and white shake anyday at Zafi’s over a coffee.
Favorite slice in the hood?
What is your favorite activity to do with your kids in the hood?
Digging in the dirt at Gulick Park.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
Depends on the visitor, but I like to take folks to Essex Street Market, to the site of my grandfather’s candy store on Delancey Street, Zafi’s, Henry Street Settlement to see an exhibition or show, the Pickle Guys, Kossar’s, Doughnut Plant, Café Petisco, East River’s Seal Park and the Hamilton Fish Pool if they have kids and it’s summertime. The former Seward Park High School (where my dad graduated), the birthplace of the B’nai Brith plaque on Essex Street and our composting tumbler and garden plot on Broome Street and Luther Gulick Park.
Favorite dive/locals bar in the hood?
Favorite LES memory?
Back in the 1980s, I was young, carefree and on my way home at 3AM. I saw 3 people go into an unmarked doorway on a deserted Rivington Street. It seemed like a good idea, so I knocked on the door, handed over my $5 and went in. I felt like Alice going down the rabbit hole, only I ended up in a pulsating after-hours party at ABC No Rio. A little later, the dance music cut out and was replaced by Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby”. Two women dressed only in golden eggshells gyrated on a window sill. Ultimately, they cracked their eggs and each delivered a baby doll.
A few years later, I was at Max Fish talking to the guy next to me at the bar. I told him my name was Dave and he said his was Rockets. I thought he was playing around and asked him his last name – he said “Redglare” and then was kind enough to explain that he was an actor and had changed his name. I remember we had a great conversation and his telling me about a scene he did in “What About Me”.
Finally, filming The Auteur Theory’s movie within the movie, Young and Hungry in New York, on Grand Street.
What do you miss about the old LES?
Most of all I miss my grandparents – my sister and I would come down and have sleepovers here when we were small children. I also miss the pea soup, onion rolls and attitude of the waiters at Ratner’s on Delancey Street… The old falafel restaurant on Grand and East Broadway, Cave Canem, Theater Club Funambles, The Gas Station, Ludlow Street Café, the Lismar Lounge, the Lansky Lounge and my short stint as a pedicab driver for George Bliss.
What has changed since you moved here that you like?
Better elementary schools, new places at Essex Street Market, including Saxelby’s, restoration of East River Park and the amphitheater, better programming at Henry Street Settlement, lots of restaurants within walking distance and plenty that deliver, lots of friends moving in, bike lanes on Grand and Allen Streets and on the bridges, the reopening of the pool at Masaryk Housing, more vegetarian and healthy choices at Fine Fare and the fact that Frank’s Bike Shop is still here.
What would like to see change?
Better middle schools, a mixed use development on the SPURA lots that contains affordable and market rate housing, the space under the Williamsburg Bridge used for something other than parking, more trees and lots of people enjoying a weekend day in the sun at Gulick Park.