For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with LES resident and radio DJ George Nenadich.
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
I have had the pleasure of living in the LES for the last 17 years.
Why did you move here or (if you were born here) why did you stay?
My wife is originally from the LES and I have always been fascinated by the neighborhood since I was a child. I was born in Paterson, N.J., but my mother would shop in the old LES, where you could buy great clothing for cheap and she would resell them in Paterson. When I was a teen back in ’80s we would come to the LES to buy jewelry, leather bombers and sheepskin coats.
Although we were married at St. Mary’s church on Grand Street, my wife and I lived in Puerto Rico the first years of our marriage, and when we returned to NYC we moved to Brooklyn, which was nice, but finally the opportunity to move back to my wife’s old LES neighborhood was an option and we jumped at the chance.
By far it has been one of the greatest decisions we have ever made. When we had our daughter in ’03 we were considering moving out to N.J., but then we realized that we truly love this neighborhood, and the only way to make it better is to add to the improvement and contribute to its beauty.
It’s easy to abandon and criticize something that you feel you can’t control, but we accepted the challenge and decided to stay here for the rest of our lives, or as long as we possibly can. To my family, the LES is the garden spot of the world!
What do you do?
I work as an on-air personality at Sirius XM on two channels. I have a classic salsa program, “La Vieja Escula,” on Caliente, Ch. 69 and on Rumbon, Ch. 533. I host a talk show on ESPN Deportes 1050 a.m. called “Fusion Deportiva.” I’m also an event manager for Track Marketing, a top- 100 event agency.
Tell us about your apartment – the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: I feel we have a great place, when we finally decided this is where we’re staying, I decided this apartment has to be a home for my family. Some of the great perks are a nice-sized terrace and a parking space, which makes things very convenient. The Bad: Unfortunately when you’re dealing with apartment living, your walls are also someone else’s walls, and your floors are somebody’s ceiling as well as your ceiling being someone else’s floor, etc. The Ugly: Not all neighbors are clean, considerate and sane! You have to deal with neighbors that have social and personal issues, plus you have to stay on alert at all times, being that there’s always someone in the shadows that’s up to no good—anywhere and everywhere!
What’s your favorite spot on the LES and why?
We love walking or biking along the East River up to 23rd Street, enjoying good conversation and good music over drinks at some of the local spots like Eastwood or Les Enfants de Boheme.
Favorite cheap eats?
Any of the Castillo joints! The one on Grand Street, the one on Madison Street or the one on Rivington Street. Cabalito on Essex Street, for some great pupusas, or North Dumplings, also on Essex, for super cheap and filling eats. [I like] Café Petisco. I also love to venture deep into Chinatown and find hidden gems all along East Broadway.
Favorite place for a special night?
When we want to splurge we’ll have drinks and dinner at some of the great hotels like the Rivington or the Thompson. On my birthday we went to a great spot on Hester Street called Louie and Chang’s, then drinks at Tequileria on Ludlow, then to New York Sushi KO. We dropped a nice piece of change that night.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
Progress is always important to any community, but along the way you have to maintain the integrity of certain things in a neighborhood because it can’t be built or designed; it’s something that comes with time and the character of the people from that area.
The small merchants keep disappearing with the development of new apartment buildings and new spaces. More recent transplants have also moved into my neighborhood of Madison and Montgomery Street, which is OK, but many don’t share the same passion for neighborhood. The only reasonably priced supermarket, Pathmark, is gone, and the ones that are left are extremely overpriced. I assume they have to be because of the rent that they have to pay.
What do you miss from the old LES?
Without skipping a beat, I have to say I miss the old merchants that made the LES famous. It’s still a great melting pot, but back then it was magnifique! I mean the old LES was a shining example of diversification every 10 feet back in the ’80s. You would see Chinese restaurants next to Spanish jewelry stores next to a baly store next to a pizza shop. You would get a great sandwich at Ratner’s and some good frituras at the Puerto Rican spot on Clinton and Delancey. Great Chinese and Spanish food at the Apollo and go drink at some real dive bars that had no name!
Is there a new arrival you love?
I like Cabalito, the pupusa spot on Essex, and my wife and I really like Les Enfants de Boheme, because the staff is awesome, in particular the bartender, I believe his name is “East.” I’ve always like the way they fixed up the Essex Market and all the great little shops that make up that location. There’s a cool shop on East Broadway called Malt and Mold that specializes in cheese and beer, two of my favorite things. Every time I walk in there it’s like winning the lottery!
What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?
It drives me crazy the way some people who have lived here all their lives just take it for granted. I can’t believe the way they treat the great parks and the playgrounds, the way they pollute right where they live. The fact that so many people don’t even take the time to learn the history of their own community.
You don’t have to know everything, but you should know a few historical things that occurred in the area where you live.
It doesn’t matter whether you come from a million-dollar condo or from the projects, in the LES we all have an obligation to do something for the benefit of community, no matter how big or small. The increasing amount of homeless people in my neighborhood is sad, some of the public benches have been occupied by homeless people, and they have been there for months, in some cases years. Where were these people before? Where is the help?
Tell us your best LES memory
I’ve had the pleasure of working in conjunction with the City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage for the last few years. I wanted to do something special for Tito Nieves, who has never performed at our East River Bandshell venue. I knew he would draw a large crowd, if not the largest so far. I decided a plaque would be in order to commemorate his appearance, but it had to say something special. We gave him a plaque at his show that says, “Presented to Tito Nieves from the people of the Lower East Side. Thanks for all the wonderful music. 8/4/15.”