For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with longtime resident Raven Dolling.
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
I have lived on the LES for 65 years. My mother and I lived in the Smith Houses for 10 years. When I was 15, we moved to the Seward Park Co-op.
Why did you move here?
My mother and I moved here from the Bronx when I was 5 years old and have lived here, on and off, ever since. I lived here during the LES’s dark times (friends were afraid to visit). Now, with everything going on here, why would I leave?
What do you do?
I am a retired hairstylist. I travel as much as I can now.
Tell us about your apartment – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I am fortunate to live on the 20th floor. My apartment is very comfortable. Mostly, I have lovely neighbors and feel if I needed help they would not hesitate. I like to think of the people in the co-op as my dysfunctional family as I no longer have any living relatives.
What’s your favorite spot on the LES and why?
My favorite spot is the view from my balcony. On a clear day, I can see every bridge in NYC. I also love the public garden in Seward Park.
Favorite cheap eats?
I like Cheeky’s — the short rib sandwich and the excellent fried chicken sandwich. And I like going into Eastwood and meeting everyone from the nabe. The owners are so welcoming, it’s like home, but bigger.
Favorite place for a special night?
Beauty & Essex: After seeing what the former Essex Market morphed into, I find the decor amazing. Good food too. And The Fat Radish — really good food, after living here as long as I have, it’s spectacular that I only have to walk a few blocks to eat. It has only been this way for a short time, for most of my life on the LES I’ve had to leave the neighborhood to have a good meal.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
I see a lot more young parents with children. Late at night, the streets aren’t as desolate as they were when I was younger. I feel safer when I come home by myself late at night.
What do you miss from the old LES?
The bialys don’t taste the same as when I was a kid, but I hear that they are working on it. I miss Gertel’s Bakery.
Is there a new arrival you love?
I love all the new restaurants, boutiques and galleries. I especially love The New Museum.
What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?
The dirt and dog poo make me crazy.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the LES?
There used to be a public telephone on the corner of East Broadway and Clinton Street. For many years, at about 7:30 a.m., we would be awakened by a woman screaming profanities into the phone and then slamming the receiver. This routine went on for about a half-hour every morning.
Tell us your best LES memory.
My best memory is trying to leave but always returning. This place is my home.
*Editor’s Note: A version of this article appearing in the April 2015 print edition of The Lo-Down contained an editing error. In print, the answer to one of the questions mistakenly came from a previous article and did not reflect Raven Dolling’s point of view. The error has been corrected in this online edition.