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.
What do you do?
Maintenance Worker – LOCAL 32, Student (majoring in Finance), front man for the NYCH band, AHGEDA, Security at Fontana’s Bar.
How long have you lived on the LES?
Born and raised, baby boy! Feb. 15, 1989 (Chris is third generation LES)! I’ve lived in the Lower East Side before art school students thought it was a “cute” neighborhood. Like when the only white people we saw downtown were either cops or dudes “coppin” dope; when Avenue D was the heroin capitol of the world. Yeah, that was my Lower East Side. Not this art-school-dormitory-bars-clubs-art-galleries-on-every-corner shit.
Favorite block in the hood?
Delancey Street: best clothes, food and dutches in the hood (or at least it used to be). It used to be like Fordham Road in the Bronx, now it’s like Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg…So I think I changed my mind. Broome Street is my favorite, because from Allen to Chrystie, it’s still kinda like the ’90’s. Sneakers hanging from telephone wires, junkies and bodegas. And cheapest dutches/beer in the hood.
Favorite date spot in the hood?
Cucina De Pesce. It’s an Italian restaurant on 4th St. and Second Ave., I believe. Hipsters call it the East Village, but in my world, it’s still considered the Lower East Side. The food is unbelievable, great prices and every time I bring a chick there, I’m getting (lucky). What else could you ask for? Also, the “feng shui” is awesome. Nice dim lights, real sexy like. (Again, not sure I spelled feng shui right, I’m a union worker, not a Pratt Graduate.)
Favorite coffee in the hood?
Best coffee in the hood is from Cup & Saucer Diner on Canal and Eldridge. It’s cheap (excuse me, it’s “affordable”), it’s authentic and it doesn’t come with some lame-ass foreign name. You say, “Can I get a cup of coffee,” large or small, milk or sugar – that’s it. Not “Venti,” “Fettuchini,” “Lamborgini” or whatever they have at Starbucks. And that place has been there for like a hundred years, last great greek diner left in NYC, in my opinion. (Great food, too.)
Favorite slice in the hood? (or favorite “cheap eats”)
Favorite pizza slice is Vic’s Pizza, formerly Joe’s Pizza, just off of Essex and Grand, next to Gus’ Pickles, I believe (now it’s The Pickle Guys). Joe was an old-school Italian pizza maker with a Mexican partner; been going to them since I was a baby. Joe retired, and left the business to his buddy, Vic, the Mexican guy. Still counts as an authentic Italian guy making your pizza.
Also, another “cheap eats” spot – Cup & Saucer – best Greek diner left in NYC, awesome staff. They’ve known me since I was a baby. Tell ’em Puerto Rican Chris sent cha.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
All the listed places above, and we cap off the night partying at the best bar/club/lounge: Fontana’s Bar – 105 Eldridge St. And I’m not just saying that because I work there on weekends. It’s because the owners are awesome, the bartenders are not only the best lookin’ downtown, they are the friendliest and make ya feel like family. Shout outs to my surrogate family at Fontana’s.
Favorite dive bar in the hood?
I’m too classy for dive bars, Baby! Just kidding. Fontana’s ain’t no dive bar, but it’s my favorite place to drink. Then Double Down Saloon and Nice Guy Eddie’s is cool for a football game and some hot wings.
My favorite dive bar/working stiff (Union Man) bar of all time is on 57 Murray St., between Church and W. Broadway, called Uncle Mike’s. Not a place to get girls, but to chill, vent about work and check out the chesty broads in bikinis behind the bar. Yeah, it’s not the Lower East Side, but it’s my favorite dive bar of all time.
What sort of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?
Are you serious? Dude, it went from Heroinville to art school hipster dudes with ugly flannel shirts and lame-ass facial hair. But I have to say, I can come home from work without having to worry about a junkie sticking me for my sneakers. The food and bars are all cool, the neighborhood has a lot of hot girls now – it’s safe, I can get Thai food, vegan food, get a quick workout and go to a bar themed after Detroit all on the same block. So that’s cool. But, the looks I get from these fuckin’ out-of-towners like I don’t belong in the neighborhood are infuriating.
It’s hard to find New Yorkers anymore; everyone came from middle fucking America for the “Big City experience” and in turn gave me a “everyone from outside of NYC is fucking lame” experience. (Disclaimer: I’ve met some amazing people from outside New York. It just pisses me off every time I try and (get lucky with) a chick, she’s telling me about some lame art/dance school degree and how she misses Cleveland or Michigan or fucking Pennsylvania or whatever else.)
It would be refreshing to talk to someone who was actually BORN in Bushwick, not someone who just moved in with three white girls from Utah and thinks they can shout out, “Brooklyn!” every time a Notorious B.I.G. song comes on at the club. Not cool.
Another thing – when NYC was dangerous, it was cheap to live and party here, only because none of these assholes wanted to live here. Then they found out how lame it is everywhere else in the world outside of NYC and they realized if they want that bullshit art degree to get them any type of money, they had to try and get a slice of NYC pie. Now none of us locals can afford to live in the very same city…that we made awesome. Now we all have to move to lame-ass New Jersey or the fucking Bronx?!?!? Keep your fucking Asian fusion and vegan restaurants. Gimme New York the way it was before.
Favorite LES memory?
My favorite Lower East Side memory was getting chased down Hester Street by a gang of like 20 Ghost Shadows (or whatever that Chinese gang’s name was) and running for my life. It’s my favorite memory because they all looked like they were being led by Mel Gibson in Braveheart; battle cries and all that shit. Real talk.
If you ever wanted to see four Puerto Ricans breaking speed records for a 5-block sprint, you woulda seen it that night. We ran for our lives. Thank God the Seward Park Building A projects were right there; we met up with the team and evened up the odds. I can laugh about it now ’cause I’m a grown-ass man, but at 16, seeing half of Hong Kong chasing you down Hester Street with bricks and sticks will make a Green Beret shit.
BUT ANYWAYS, thanks guys for asking me a coupla things about myself and the Lower East Side, and I have to say, it was great to vent a little about how I feel about my beautiful, ugly, dirty, disgusting, blossoming, artsy, opening minded, smelly, sexy and blessed little shithole. Take care guys!
P.S. There is nothing wrong with art or dance schools, or pursuing an art; it just pisses me off ’cause that’s all I see. I come from a working class family, I’m a union worker myself and I just miss the guys who were proud of just working; after all, it was the working class who built this country!