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My LES: Chiun Ng

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Chiun Ng. Photo by thelodownny.com.

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?

I’m an architect. The firm I work at (Holzman Moss Bottino) does cultural and civic types of buildings. One of the first projects I worked on was Brooklyn Academy of Music. I loved it. I just completed a new theater in Ohio last year. Right now I’m working on a library renovation in Delaware. I am also a member of Community Board 3.

How long have you lived on the LES?

Eight-plus years. In 2003 I saw a listing in the paper and then I hiked to Avenue C to see it. I called my brother Chihou in Seattle right afterward. I told him that I fell in love with the neighborhood and I wanted to move here. He said to me, “Just do it!”  Here I am – I’ve been living in the LES ever since.

Last year I moved to Eldridge and Houston. The location is more convenient than Avenue C. It’s also a stone’s throw away from Chinatown. It’ll be easier for my parents when they visit me. They only speak Chinese and eat Chinese food.

Favorite block in the hood?

The area around Avenue C and East Ninth, where I used to live. The vibe is very laid back. There is nice mix of shops and restaurants. There are two amazing community gardens at the intersection. One of them is La Plaza Cultural. This garden is so naturalistic and imaginative that you wonder if the “Wild Things” live there. It changed a bit after Irene knocked down a couple big trees last year. The other garden is Ninth Street Park. It’s like a mini botanical garden which would intrigue Darwin and inspire Monet.

My other favorite block is East Second Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue. The north side of the block is so picturesque. I also like East Sixth, between Avenues A and C, for its tranquility.

Favorite date spot in the hood?

The Smile on Bond Street for dinner and Against the Grain on Sixth Street for drinks. They are small, cute, and tucked away. You feel that the whole world leaves you and your date alone. Dinner at home is another favorite. I usually start the preparation by getting fresh flowers at the farmers market. I’m old-fashioned.

Favorite coffee in the hood?

As an aspiring barista, I make my coffee at home. For beans, I like Grumpy’s ‘Heartbreak’ and Gimme’s ‘Leftist.’ For espresso shots, I go to Abraço on East Seventh Street.

Favorite cheap eats in the hood?

Fu Zhou Cuisine at Eldridge and Broome. They feature Fujianese specialty foods. One of them is noodles in peanut butter suace. I’m Cantonese and I had never heard of this dish. It’s unbelievably good. You’ll want to try it if you’re an adventurous foodie. The boiled dumplings are delish. Their boil time is perfect. I’ve never be able to duplicate it at home.

Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?

I usually take them wherever they like to go. There are so many places to visit here, and so much variety!  Now I would add the basketball courts to the long list, because of “Linsanity.” Anyone know which courts Jeremy Lin uses to play hoops?

Favorite dive bar in the hood?

I haven’t found one near my new place yet. (Hi Lo-Down readers, any recommendations?) I still go back to 11th Street Bar on East 11th. The bartenders always play music I don’t know but I enjoy listening to it. This place has an aura. I particularly like it during the hours when it’s almost empty. I can sip beer, look around, contemplate — then I wish I was a poet so I could put the moment in to words.

What sort of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?

Many new arrivals and new businesses. There is a diverse population here. I hope that all the new arrivals will improve, but not change, the character of the neighborhood.

Favorite LES memory?

On one Saturday afternoon in Tompkins Square Park, I chatted with some homeless people, saw Chloë Sevigny walking by and Ástor Piazzolla on his scooter. I watched church folk giving out food to people in need, listened to a young traveling Japanese musician playing music with local Puerto Rican retirees, saw couples sunbathing on the lawn and parents chasing their kids on the playground.

All right, all these didn’t happen in one afternoon and Piazzolla died 20 years ago (he grew up here). It’s a collection of fragmental memories. They remind me the spontaneity and humanity of the neighborhood.


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