The Lower East Side (often abbreviated to LES) is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by the Bowery to the west, East Houston Street to the north, the East River to the east, and Canal Street to the south. The western boundary below Grand Street veers east off of the Bowery to approximately Essex Street.
It was traditionally an immigrant, working-class neighborhood. It has undergone rapid gentrification starting in the mid-2000s, prompting The National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America's Most Endangered Places. It has become a home to upscale boutiques and trendy dining establishments along Clinton Street's restaurant row.
The neighborhood has become home to numerous contemporary art galleries. One of the very first was ABC No Rio. Begun by a group of Colab no wave artists (some living on Ludlow Street), ABC No Rio opened an outsider gallery space that invited community participation and encouraged the widespread production of art. Taking an activist approach to art that grew out of The Real Estate Show (the take over of an abandoned building by artists to open an outsider gallery only to have it chained closed by the police) ABC No Rio kept its sense of activism, community, and outsiderness. The product of this open, expansive approach to art was a space for creating new works that did not have links to the art market place and that were able to explore new artistic possibilities.
The Lower East Side is the home to many private parks, such as La Plaza Cultural.
Nightlife and Live Music:
As the neighborhood gentrified and has become safer at night, it has become a popular late night destination. Orchard, Ludlow and Essex between Rivington Street and Stanton Street have become especially packed at night, and the resulting noise is a cause of tension between bar owners and longtime residents. However, as gentrification continues, many established landmarks and venues have been lost.
Also, the Lower East Side is home to many live music venues. Punk bands played at C-Squat and alternative rock bands play at Bowery Ballroom on Delancey Street and Mercury Lounge on East Houston Street. Punk bands play at Otto's Shrunken Head and R-Bar. Punk and alternative bands play at Bowery Electric just north of the old CBGB's location, while lesser-known bands played at Tonic (which closed on April 13, 2007) and Rothko (now closed) on Suffolk Street. There are also bars that offer performance space, such as Pianos, The Living Room, and Cake Shop on Ludlow Street and Arlene's Grocery on Stanton Street.