For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked recently with community organizer Wilson Soo. If you know someone you would like to suggest be featured in “My LES,” please email us here.
What do you do?
I am the program manager at Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Inc. Two Bridges is a nonprofit organization that serves the community through the creation of affordable housing and by advocating for quality of life improvements for residents. We provide access to social services and engage residents in public, political and planning processes that impact the community in which they live and/or work. I am also one of the co-chairs of the Chinatown Working Group, a community planning initiative for Chinatown and its surrounding areas.
How long have you lived on the LES?
I have lived and worked on the Lower East Side all of my life. I actually still live in the building that I was raised in.
Favorite block in the neighborhood?
My favorite block in the neighborhood would have to be Essex Street. There are far too many memories on that street for me to say otherwise.
Favorite date spot in the neighborhood?
The Smith Restaurant [in the East Village]. There’s good food and a nice atmosphere.
Favorite coffee in the neighborhood?
Does my office’s Keurig coffee count? Seriously though, I usually pick up my morning coffee from any Chinese bakery in the neighborhood. In the afternoon, you can usually find me getting my caffeine fix in Little Italy at spots like S.P.Q.R. Restaurant, Da Nico’s Restaurant or Sambuca’s Cafe.
Favorite slice in the neighborhood?
Pulino’s on Bowery. Its a long wait, but worth it for the prosciutto and arugula pie.
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
If it’s their first time here, I would have to say dim sum in Chinatown, shopping in SoHo, sightseeing throughout the city, food and drinks along St. Marks and if it’s a really late night, any of the eateries still open on the Bowery and Bayard Street. I also take them to places like Economy Candy where you can find almost any type of candy imaginable and of course The Pickle Guys for gourmet pickled delicacies.
Favorite dive/locals bar in the neighborhood?
A place that my friends and I have frequented is Phebe’s on Bowery and East 4th Street. It’s a great place to go to catch any of the games that are playing and have some good bar food.
What sort of changes have you seen in the neighborhood in the last few years?
I think the Lower East Side has become one of the more sought-after neighborhoods to live in. The neighborhood has become more chic and nightlife-oriented. Once mom and pop shops are now boutiques and bars. Old tenement buildings have given way to condominiums and hotels.
Favorite LES memory?
My favorite LES memory dates back to my early childhood. My entire family pretty much lived in the same building that I still live in. Sundays were the best days because we always had family dinner together. My grandfather, aunts and mom would spend much of the afternoon preparing dinner while my cousins and I played in Seward Park. We would all return home to open doors where we would go from apartment to apartment, eating and hanging out.