The Real Deal New York

Hester Street’s yin and yang

A building-by-building breakdown of a block where an immigrant past collides with a hipster future
By C.J. Hughes | January 12, 2012 02:00PM

The north side of Hester Street

From the January issue: When waves of immigrants washed across the Lower East Side a century ago, Hester Street between Essex and Ludlow streets was a kinetic — and occasionally run-down — jumble of storefronts. Shoppers flocked there to buy low-cost groceries, apparel and household goods from the pushcart vendors filling the streets. But Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia relocated the pushcarts to three new brick warehouses on Essex, one of which survives as a market today. And Eastern European Jews, who sold pickles and prayer shawls, gradually gave way to Asians, who migrated east, starting in the 1960s, from Chinatown. Now there are more changes afoot. In recent years, young white “hipsters” have crept in from the East Village, drawn by (comparatively) cheap rents. They frequent establishments like nearby Frank’s Chop Shop, a five-year-old barbershop offering $60 haircuts, and Café Grumpy, a Greenpoint-based coffee shop, which opened its second outpost on Essex Street in June. [more]