This 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.
What do you do?
I live two lives: Educator and Artist.
Educator: I teach 5th grade at PS 3 in the West Village. I am also adjunct faculty at the Steinhardt School at NYU, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in education. I also have a blog called The K5, aimed to provide parents of elementary school age children with tricks and tips. The bulk of the info is communicated via videos I created, but there are written posts as well.
Art: I work in the mediums of public art, photography and film and video. In 2001 I founded the public art collective, Illegal Art. Our work is all based upon public participation. I also work independently of the collective – the most recent project being a short video called I Love My Woman, where I interviewed men about the women they love. (It’s a finalist in this year’s NYC Downtown Short Film Festival, being screened on April 27th.)
How long have you lived on the LES?
Favorite block in the hood?
That’s a really tough one. I like many blocks down here. I like the blocks surrounding Broome and Orchard. It’s fun to hang out there. So many nice spots to eat that weren’t there before. I like running into friends walking down Grand Street. I love walking through Chinatown via Market Street and exploring the many little blocks down there. When I first moved to the neighborhood, I used to take an evening stroll every week with my camera, looking to find new corners and locations to check out, eat at and so on. There is a very beautiful little cemetery, just to the south of Dim Sum Go-Go, of Portuguese Jews from, I think, the 1700s. It feels wild down there, devoid of the bustle of New York. At least in the evenings.
Favorite date spot in the hood?
Ten Bells. Oysters, eel salad, olives, papas bravas, a glass of wine. I think that is our favorite spot to go for a date. We try to get there early to enjoy Happy Hour and sit near the door because it gets pretty crowded fast. The back room is really cool as well.
Favorite coffee in the hood?
I am not a coffee drinker so this answer is very short. Sorry. But I like the tea at Dora on East Brodway and they have great little sandwiches to snack on, too.
Favorite slice in the hood?
Slice in this hood? Hmmm. I don’t eat a lot of pizza down here.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
If they like to run, I like to run across the Williamsburg Bridge, then head towards the Manhattan Bridge via Flushing, by the Navy Yard and back to the hood. Or along East River Park. The improvements that have been done down there are great.
Food, food and food: Cafe Petisco has a great breakfast, though if they are a “diner person” we’ll head to Cup & Saucer. Vanessa’s Dumplings for the Sesame Bread sandwich, ice cream made by Sorella at Stellina (next door to their restaurant), Russ & Daughters for Pastrami Lox or a lox and cream cheese bagel, hand rolls at An Choi, a good margarita at Casa Mezcal. Frankie’s on Clinton is delicious. I love eating there, too. It’s always changing because there are new places opening all the time.
And I get ALL of my gifts for my wife at Kaight. It’s simply the best place to get women’s clothing.
I also love the Tenement Museum. My grandfather grew up on Allen Street in a tenement way back when, so I like to peruse their collection of history books and other titles. The Museum on Eldridge also throws great events, provides great tours and is an interactive museum. And the upstairs is one of the most gorgeous temples I’ve ever seen. There is also a great Chinese “hot pot” restaurant on the corner of Canal and Eldridge called Super Taste which is worth a stop. Okay, I could keep going. I think that’s enough.
Favorite dive/locals bar in the hood?
I used to frequent Bar 169 before Lolita, Barrio Chino (when it was just a bar), Clandestino and Sweet Paradise opened. They had a great Monday Night Pizza Special: I think it was $20 for a pizza for two people, two small salads and two glasses of wine, but you could opt for beer. Loved that. If I grab a local beer I’ll usually head to Clandestino.
How has the neighborhood changed in the last few years?
Are you kidding me? The only bar in the neighborhood when I first moved here was Bar 169. I think enough said.
Favorite LES memory?
Yes. One stands out from all of the rest. I was set-up on a blind date in 2005. Well, sort of a blind date. I had met her once before, about 5 years prior. We had drinks and snacks at Salt Bar. Then we went to Falai for dessert but they were closed so we walked around the neighborhood talking for about 2 hours. Six months later she moved into my apartment. Two years later we were married in the M’Finda Kalunga Garden at Rivington and Chrystie. The LES means a lot to me.
You can follow Otis on twitter here.