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New York's Historic East Side - My Home
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Leah Lieberman
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          The Lower East Side is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City Borough of Manhattan. Traditionally it has been an immigrant, working class neighborhood, but recently it has undergone some gentrification. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has recently placed the neighborhood on their list of Americaís most endangered places.
          The Lower East Side is best known as having once been a center of Jewish culture. Stores on Hester Street, Essex Street and Grand Street still have shops exhibiting the Jewish beginnings of contemporary American Jewish culture. There is still an Orthodox Jewish community with yeshiva day schools and a mikvah. One can still find a few Judaica shops on Essex street and a few Jewish scribes and variety stores.
          In the East Village, the early population of Poles and Ukranians has been largely replaced with the arrival of Asian people during the last fifteen years. There are a large number of Asian restaurants and specialty food markets.
          Chinese people have come into the area. Part of the neighborhood south of Delancey street, west of Allen street has become part of Chinatown.
          Through all the changes, through all the different immigrants. Through everything there remains Katzís Deli, Streit Matzo Company, Gussí Pickles, Gertelís Bake Shop and Yonah Shimmelís Knish Bakery. The Lower East Side of New York remains a neighborhood. My neighborhood.
          Me? Iím eighty eighty eight years old and Iíve lived in the Lower East Side since 1964. My husband, Joe Lieberman and I were married on May 11, 1957. Joe died the day after our 25th wedding anniversary on May 12, 1982,
          I still live in the same apartment I shared with Joe. When we first moved here the neighborhood was mostly Jewish, with a few Italians. Over the years our little neighborhood has grown to include Asians, Hispanics and African Americans.
          When Joe and I moved in we had the luck of having a Kosher delicatessen right across the street from us. Now the space is occupied by an intermediate school. Years ago my son, Danny, went to that school.
          Three blocks away from my apartment is Grand Street, kind of a main thoroughfare in the Lower East Side. Grand Street has many stores and restaurants. Itís also home to scores of apartment buildings.
          Although my arthritis often keeps me from traveling too far from the apartment I still get around to some of my favorite places.
          Years ago, when I was working I travelled on my vacations. One year I went to Halifax, Nova Scotia by train, and then, from there by ship to Havana, Cuba. That was long before Castro came to power. What I noticed most about Havana was the abject poverty that was all around me. Aside from the luxury hotel which catered to visitors from abroad, there was poverty in evidence all over the city.
          Years ago I enjoyed traveling by ship. On another trip I went to Nassau in the Bahamas. Another time I went by plane to Athens. Iíve also been to Florence and London.
          Before the arthritis became too debilitating I flew to San Francisco and Portland, Oregon and by train to Boston, Florida and Philadelphia.
          In my earlier days I used to ride my bike around the neighborhood. Iíd pedal to the South Street Seaport or Essex or Allen Streets.
          Once in a while I ride the city bus, but now the subway is beyond my physical capabilities.
          The best trip I ever took was with my husband, Joe, when we went to Israel. It took us a while, but we made it.
          You see, just before the day we were to leave Joe had a heart attack and wound up in the hospital. Eventually, he had open heart surgery. One day, after his recovery, he turned to me and said, ďLetís go to Israel.Ē And so we did.
          I think the biggest thrill of my life was when we arrived at Jerusalem and the tour guide instructed us to get off the bus and walk into Jerusalem. We were both very moved by the historical city.
          Nowadays walking is very difficult for me. I use Access-a-Ride to get around. Or I take a taxi.
          Some days when I walk from my home to Grand Street, a distance of about three blocks, I have to have a car service take me back home.
          It may be difficult for me to get around as I used to, but when I do get to Grand Street and see the shops and the mix of people Ė the excitement of the lower East Side Iím thankful Iím here. Thereís no place like it