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jewish lower east side


The Jewish Heritage Walking Tours provide an opportunity for you to explore Manhattan’s Lower East Side in a series of four self-guided walks. You will discover the history of an area reflecting the lives of early waves of immigrants and become familiar with the present Jewish community. You will view century-old synagogues, yeshivas, tenements, and settlement houses. Along the way you will be guided through today’s vibrant neighborhood with its enduring Jewish infrastructure and thriving retail culture of shops and restaurants. These tours are offered as an introduction to the Lower East Side. Look for an illustrated in-depth walking tour guidebook by Joyce Mendelsohn to be published by the South Manhattan Development Corp. in the spring of 2,000.

Each of the four tours will take approximately one-and-one-half-hours to complete. Together they cover a large area of the Lower East Side and require considerable walking. Ideally you should plan to spend the entire day on the Lower East Side but follow only one tour during each visit. That way you will have time to experience the neighborhood on your own, to sample some of the local Jewish delicacies, and to step into the numerous shops offering a large selection of merchandise at discount prices. The best time to visit is Sunday through Friday. Many stores and restaurants close early on Friday afternoon and remain closed on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring your camera to capture some of the unique sights to be found only on New York’s Lower East Side.

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Tour One: The tour begins at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, 12 Eldridge Street on the block below Canal Street. Take the B, D, or Q train to Grand Street. Walk two blocks east to Eldridge Street, turn right and walk two-and-a-half blocks south. By bus take the M15, the Second Avenue bus, to Allen and Canal Streets. Turn right and walk one block west on Canal to Eldridge Street. Turn left and walk another half block.

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I-1 Eldridge Street Synagogue, Congregation K’Hal Adath Jeshurun with Anshe Lubz (Community of the People of Israel with the People of Lubz), 12 Eldridge Street. 1886-1887.

This was the first great house of worship in America constructed by Eastern European Jews. Members included Isaac Gellis, Al Jolson, Jonas Salk, and Linus Pauling. In the 1970s the Eldridge Street Project was formed to restore and preserve the synagogue and renew the space with educational and cultural programs. The Orthodox congregation continues to worship here and has never missed a Sabbath service since 1887. The landmark façade combines elements of Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque design. Open to the public. Don’t miss the video on the history of the Lower East Side. Call (212) 219-0888 for information and hours.

I-2 Birthplace of Eddie Cantor, 19 Eldridge Street.

The popular actor was born in this tenement on January 31, 1892.

Walk half a block south on Eldridge Street to Division Street. Turn left. Cross Pike Street and turn right.

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I-3 Former Congregation Sons of Israel Kalwarie, 15 Pike Street. 1903-1904.

Known as the Pike Street Synagogue, the shul was founded by Polish and Russian immigrants in 1853. Its vast interior space was favored for large events and ceremonies such as rabbinical ordinations. Sold in 1994 to Chinese owners, the building was converted to a the Sung Tak Buddhist Temple, commercial and residential space.

Walk north to East Broadway and turn right.

I-4 Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America, (Beauty of Jerusalem) 145-147 East Broadway.

Established in 1907, this Yeshiva is one of the oldest in America. Alumni serve as rabbinical, professional, and lay leaders in Jewish communities nationally and internationally. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the world’s leading Talmudic scholar, was at the head of the Yeshiva for more than 50 years until his death in 1986. His son, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, succeeded him in that position.

Walk to Rutgers Street and turn right. Continue to Henry Street and turn left.

I-5 Former House of Sages, 152 Henry Street. 1940.

Founded in 1922 this unique institution was a center for prayer and study for retired rabbis. In the early 1990s the House of Sages moved to 283 Henry Street and this building was remodeled as a Buddhist Temple.

I-6 Former Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, 165-167 Henry Street. 1912-1913.

The Yeshiva was formed in 1901 and a year later named for New York’s first and only Chief Rabbi. Two limestone tablets inscribed in Hebrew honoring the house of study surmount the arched entrance. In 1976 after the Yeshiva moved to Staten Island the building was altered for apartments.

Return to Rutgers Street and walk to East Broadway. Turn right on East Broadway.

I-7 Annual outdoor market, junction of Canal and Division Streets.

In the days prior to the festival of Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) sidewalk vendors sell lulavim (palm branches), esrogim (citron), hadassim (myrtle branches), and aravos (willow branches) for the decoration of Succot.

I-8 Straus Square, originally Rutgers Square, intersection of East Broadway, Rutgers, and Essex Streets.

Named for an early landowner, Rutgers Square was the center of political activity in the immigrant Jewish community. It was renamed in 1931 in honor of philanthropist Nathan Straus.

Cross to the park side of East Broadway.

I-9 Seward Park, East Broadway to Hester Street between Essex and Jefferson Streets. 1900.

The park replaced decaying tenements with open space, benches, trees, a fully equipped playground, and public baths.

Look across the street.

I-10 Former Garden Cafeteria, now Wing Shoong Restaurant, 165 East Broadway.

A legendary gathering place for Yiddish journalists, writers, intellectuals, and workers.

I-11 Former Daily Forward Building. 173 East Broadway. 1912. Alterations 1999.

Founded in 1895, the Forward was the leading Socialist paper on the Yiddish newspaper row along East Broadway. It advocated social reform and instructed newcomers in the ways of American life. A popular feature was the Bintel Brief (Bundle of Letters) which answered questions from readers. The paper’s renowned editor, Abraham Kahan was one of the most influential Jews of his time. In 1974 the Forward moved to midtown where it now publishes editions in Yiddish, Russian, and English. Currently the landmark building is being remodeled for condominium apartments.

Continue walking down East Broadway.

I-12 Educational Alliance, 197 East Broadway. 1889. Remodeled 1969.
Among the earliest settlement houses in America, this social service organization was founded by leading German-Jewish philanthropists in 1889. Offering day and evening classes, its purpose was to help newly arrived immigrants to adjust to American society. Artists like Sir Jacob Epstein, Chaim Gross, and Jo Davidson attended the renowned art school. The Alliance continues to serve residents of the Lower East Side and currently runs nearly 100 programs in various community based-sites in the greater New York area.

Look across the street.

I-13 Seward Park Branch, New York Public Library, 192 East Broadway. 1909.

One of the libraries in the network of branches endowed by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, it was built with an open-air reading room on the roof overlooking Seward Park. The collection includes volumes of Judaica in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish and circulates books in Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew as well as English.

Continue walking along East Broadway.

I-14 Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan, 225-229 East Broadway.

Founded in 1912 as a religious-intellectual movement by second generation, English-speaking Jews, its purpose was to promote Orthodox life among Jewish youth. With Rabbi Yeshaya Siff as the spiritual leader, Young Israel Synagogue is one of the fastest-growing congregations on the Lower East Side with a large membership of families.

I–15 Algemeiner Journal, 225 East Broadway.

Begun in 1972 by Gershon Jacobson, publisher and editor, the Yiddish-English weekly has a national circulation.

I-16 Bialystoker Home for the Aged, 228 East Broadway. 1931.

Chartered in 1864, the Bialystok Mutual Aid Society was New York’s first landsmanshaft (mutual benefit society). It is a 95-bed, skilled, modern nursing facility providing care for the elderly of the community.

I-17 Mural on the wall of 232 East Broadway. c. 1970.

The painted wall mural is inscribed, "Our strength is our heritage. Our heritage is our life" and represents major concerns of the Jewish community on the Lower East Side.

I-18 Shtieblach, East Broadway between Clinton and Montgomery Streets.

Many still-active small Orthodox congregations are to be found in former row houses and tenements along the block. Several have been in existence for more than100 years.

I-19 United Jewish Council of the East Side Inc., 235 East Broadway.

For almost 25 years the Council has provided services and guidance for over 50 community organizations and synagogues, assisting some 15,000 Lower East Side residents annually.

You have completed Tour One and are ready to explore the neighborhood on your own. Retrace your steps back to Essex Street where you will find a variety of restaurants and shops. Be sure to stop at the Visitors Center of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District at 261 Broome Street (just west of Orchard Street) to pick up free maps and brochures of the neighborhood. The famous shopping district is concentrated along Orchard Street and the surrounding blocks.

Tour Two: The tour begins at Henry Street Settlement, 263-267 Henry Street. If you are continuing from Tour One, resume walking on East Broadway and turn right at Montgomery Street. Walk to Henry Street and turn left.

If you are just beginning the tour, take the F train to East Broadway and walk east to Montgomery Street. Turn right and walk one block to Henry Street. Or take the 14th Street-A crosstown bus to Grand and Montgomery Streets and walk two blocks south to Henry Street.


Henry St. Settlement, 263, 265, Henry Street. 1827. No. 267, 1834, altered c. 1910.
One of America’s pioneering settlement houses, it was established in 1893 by Lillian D. Wald to bring visiting nurses into the crowded tenements of the Lower East Side. Wald was a leader in the fight for better health and working conditions, and improved housing and schools. The settlement provides a wide-range of social and educational services and operates the nearby Abrons Arts Center (II-11).

II-2 Charles and Stella Guttman Building, 301 Henry Street. 1962.
The Youth Center of Henry Street Settlement offers varied programs for over 3,000 youths annually.

II-3 Pete’s House, 305 Henry Street. 1948.
Endowed by Governor Herbert Lehman and his wife Edith, this early youth center of the Settlement was named for their son Peter, an officer in the U.S. Air Force who was killed in World War Two.

II-4 Helen’s House, 309-311 Henry Street. 1991.
A transitional housing facility created by the Settlement for mothers and children, it is named in honor of Helen Hall who succeeded Lillian Wald in 1933.

Vladeck Houses, Henry, Water, Gouverneur and Jackson Streets. 1940.
Named for labor activist Baruch Charney Vladeck, this was the first municipally subsidized housing project in New York. The public housing development contains 1,700 apartments and replaced some of the worst living conditions in the city in a neighborhood once known as the Corlears Hook slums.

East Side Torah Center, 313 Henry Street.
At the present location since 1941, it is a religious, educational, and cultural center for Orthodox Jewish worship and study. For some 50 years the Center was guided by Rabbi Shlomo Seymour Nueman, a highly respected leader of the local Jewish community, who died in 1994.

Continue walking to the end of the block where Henry Street merges into Grand Street.

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Ritual Bathhouse formerly Arnold Toynbee Hall, 313 East Broadway. 1904.
Since 1940 the building has housed a mikvah, a bathhouse for the ritual purification of Orthodox Jewish women and men. It is one of only three mikvot in Manhattan and the only mikvah that remains on the Lower East Side from the many that once dotted the area.

Cross Grand Street.

Amalgamated Dwellings, 504-520 Grand Street. 1931.
Sponsored by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America led by Sidney Hillman, these cooperative apartments pioneered improved housing in a neighborhood dominated by crowded tenements.

Turn right and walk part way down Bialystoker Place.

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Bialystoker Synagogue, originally Willett Street Methodist Church, 7 Willett Street. 1826.
Purchased in 1905, the Federal-style stone building was converted to a synagogue by a congregation founded in 1878 by Jews from Bialystok, Poland. Rabbi Yitzchok Singer leads the thriving synagogue with a membership exceeding 300 families. The sanctuary is decorated with colorful wall and ceiling paintings and recently restored stained-glass windows.

Look across the street.

II-10 Hillman Housing, 500, 530,550 Grand Street. 1949-1951.
Three middle-income cooperative apartment houses, built with 807 units for over 2,000 residents, were named for labor leader Sydney Hillman.

Walk back to Grand Street and turn right.

Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street. 1975.
The community-based Arts Center of Henry Street Settlement offers activities and instruction for people of all ages and skill levels in its Dance and Music Schools, and Visual Arts and Drama Programs. Open to the public, frequent productions are performed in three theaters, and exhibits are mounted in several galleries.

II-12 Harry De Jour Playhouse, originally the Neighborhood Playhouse, 466 Grand Street. 1915.
Created by sisters Alice and Irene Lewisohn, the Neighborhood Playhouse was one of the early "little theaters" in the city presenting experimental drama, song, and dance. The Playhouse continues to function as a community theater.

Continue walking on Grand Street.

Restaurants and food stores, Grand Street from Ridge to Essex Streets.
Note the variety of shops and glatt kosher eateries on the south side of Grand Street including the Grand Deli, Kossar’s Bialys, the East Broadway Kosher Bakery (Grand Street branch), and Shalom Chai.

II-14 Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue (Great House of Study), originally Norfolk Street Baptist Church, 60 Norfolk Street. 1850.
The Gothic Revival structure houses the nation’s oldest Orthodox Jewish Russian congregation, founded in 1852. The building became a synagogue in 1885 and is known as a center for religious study and interpretation of Jewish law. One of its spiritual leaders was the much-revered Rabbi Jacob Joseph. Currently that position is held by the noted scholar, Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, President of the Rabbis’ Survivors from Concentration Camps.

This is the end of Tour Two. You can walk back to several Jewish restaurants on Grand Street or find others on Essex Street south of Grand. Or, you might want to walk two blocks north to Ratner’s.

Ratner’s, 138 Delancey Street.
This famous kosher dairy restaurant was opened in 1905 and has been at its present location since 1915.

Tour Three: The tour begins alongside the brick wall on the east side of Essex Street between Grand and Broome Streets. If you are continuing the walk from Tour Two, return to Grand Street and turn right. Continue to Essex Street, turn right and walk north along the wall.

If you are just beginning this tour, take the F, J, M or Z train to Delancey Street. Walk south down Essex Street and look for a plaque on the brick wall between Broome and Grand Streets.

Plaque marking the founding of B’nai Brith, on the brick wall, east side of Essex Street between Broome and Grand Streets. Dedicated July 4, 1976.
B’nai Brith (Sons of the Covenant) was organized in a café at this site on October 13, 1843 when 12 young German-speaking Jewish men decided to form a group to assist new immigrants. It flourishes today as the oldest and largest Jewish service organization in the world.

Walk down Essex Street.

III-2 Seward Park High School, Grand Street from Essex to Ludlow Streets. 1929.
Over the years, thousands of teen-agers, mainly immigrants and children of immigrants, have attended this New York City public high school. Famous graduates, to name a few, were Bernie Schwartz (Tony Curtis), Walter Matthau, and Zero Mostel.

Continue walking down Essex Street. Along the way you will find restaurants, food stores, shops selling religious articles, and the legendary Gus’s Pickles. Turn right on Hester Street.

III-3 Hester Street, from Essex to Ludlow Streets.
The street is well known through the film of the same name based on the novel, Yekl, by Abraham Cahan, long-time editor of the Forward. Three stores selling Jewish delicacies are located on the north side of the block. They are Kadouri Import Corp. near the corner of Essex Street, Gertel’s Bake Shoppe in the middle of the block, and The Sweet Life on the corner of Ludlow Street.

Khazzer Market (pig market), Hester Street near Ludlow Street.
This ironically named block was crowded with pushcarts where shoppers could buy just about everything (except for pork). New immigrants would cluster here in the morning hoping to be selected for a day of low-wage labor.

Turn left on Ludlow Street. Walk one block south and stop just before Canal Street.

III-5 Former Independent Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow Street. 1892.
Established by immigrants from the Polish town of Kletz, this landsmanshaft was one of the hundreds of self-help organizations that flourished on the Lower East Side.

Continue walking to Canal Street. Turn right to Orchard Street.

Former Jarmulovsky’s Bank, 54-58 Canal Street. 1912.
At the time of construction this imposing 12-story classical-style structure was the tallest building on the Lower East Side. It housed a private bank that failed in 1914 leaving stunned and angry immigrant depositors in despair.

Turn right on Orchard Street.

III-7 Tenement, 47 Orchard Street.
Look for the Stars of David in white terra cotta above the third-story windows.

Begin walking up Orchard Street.

III-8 Orchard Street.
The famed shopping street of the Lower East Side lined with unique one-of-a-kind stores draws shoppers from around the globe. On Orchard Street and the surrounding blocks shoppers can find a wide array of quality merchandise at discount prices. Most of the shops began as Jewish mom-and-pop retailers and many of them are still family-owned. In recent years older businesses have expanded and newer ones like art galleries and designer shops have opened, enriching the traditional retail culture of the Lower East Side.

Turn left at Hester Street and walk a few steps.

III-9 Former Roumanian Synagogue, 70 Hester Street.
Look for the Moorish-style windows on the upper stories marking an earlier building of the First Roumanian Synagogue located on Rivington Street. (IV-8)

Return to Orchard Street and continue walking north.

III-10 Visitor’s Center, Lower East Side Business Improvement District, 261 Broome Street (just west of Orchard Street).
Drop in to pick up free maps and brochures locating shops, restaurants, and cultural attraction in the neighborhood.

III-11 Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Gallery, 90 Orchard Street. Tenement building, 97 Orchard Street. 1863.
It is estimated that more than 7,000 people from 25 countries lived in the six-story brick building at 97 Orchard Street from its opening in 1863 until 1935 when the 22 apartments were sealed after new housing codes were enforced by the city. The Museum conducts several tours daily of restored apartments that reflect the lives of actual families who once lived there. Tickets are purchased in the Gallery shop where a slide show is available for viewing free of charge.

Walk west on Broome Street. Cross Allen Street.

III-12 Congregation Kehillah Kadosha Janina. 280 Broome Street. 1927.
Founded in 1906, this is the only Greek synagogue in New York and the only synagogue in the Western Hemisphere of Romaniote Jews, an obscure division of Judaism whose history can be traced to Roman times. The synagogue, along with a museum on the second floor, is open to the public on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Return to Allen Street. Walk north to Delancey Street.

III-13 Former Hebrew Publishing Company, 79 Delancey Street.
Originally a private Jewish bank, the Classical-style edifice was occupied from the early 1930s until the late 1970s by a leading publisher of Hebrew and Yiddish books. Look for the faded wall sign facing Allen Street.

Turn left on Delancey Street and walk two blocks west to Forsyth Street.

III–14 Former Forsyth Street Synagogue, Poel Zedek Anshei Illia (Doers of Good, People of Illia). Now Iglesia Adventista Del 7 Mo. Dia, 43 Delancey Street. 1900.
A congregation of Lithuanian immigrants erected this Romanesque Revival building with a row of retail stores on the ground floor to provide income for the synagogue.

This is the end of Tour Three. Walk back along Delancey Street to the shops and restaurants on Orchard Street and the surrounding blocks. Ratner’s is located nearby at 138 Delancey Street.
Tour Four: The tour begins on the east side of Allen Street just below Rivington Street. If you are continuing the walk from Tour Three, walk two blocks east to Allen Street and turn left. Walk up Allen Street for half a block. Look across the street.

If you are just beginning this tour, take the B, D, or Q train to Grand and Chrystie Streets. Walk east to Allen Street and turn left. Walk up Allen Street to the block between Delancey and Rivington Streets. Or take the F, J, M or Z train to Delancey Street. Walk west on Delancey Street to Allen Street. Turn right and walk half a block. By bus, take the M 15, Second Avenue bus to Rivington Street. Walk half a block south.

IV-1 Former Public Bath House, 133-135 Allen Street. 1905.
Constructed as "stream baths" with private shower stalls, the city-owned building was sold at auction to a Chinese church in 1992.

Walk to Rivington Street and turn left.

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Former First Warsaw Congregation (First Warsaw Congregation) 58 Rivington Street. 1903.
Built by a Polish congregation organized in 1886, the interior featured two galleries in the sanctuary and large bronze chandeliers. The synagogue was purchased by an artist in the early 1970s and altered for studio space.

Continue walking to the corner of Rivington and Eldridge Streets.

IV-3 Former P.S. 20, now Rivington House, 45 Rivington Street. 1898.
Graduates from this all-boys school included Harry Golden, Edward G. Robinson, and Jacob Javits. The recently renovated building is now a nursing home for people with AIDS.

University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street. 1901.
Established in 1886, this is the first settlement house in America. Eleanor Roosevelt volunteered here. On the roster of alumni are such names as Abe Beame, Louis Lefkowitz, Yip Harburg, and the Gershwin brothers. The settlement continues to serve the local community, which today is primarily Asian and Hispanic.

Walk north to Houston Street. Turn left and walk one block to Forsyth Street.

Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, 137 Houston Street.
The legendary home of kosher knishes, the bakery was launched in 1910 by a young Bulgarian rabbi.

Begin walking east on Houston Street.

IV-6 Russ and Daughters, 179 Houston Street.
The appetizer store known for its top-quality smoked and pickled fish has been serving satisfied customers since 1914.

IV-7 Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 Houston Street.
One of the last of the Jewish (but not kosher) delis on the Lower East Side, it is a traditional stop for politicians including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Walk down Ludlow Street to Rivington Street and turn right.

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First Roumanian-American Congregation,
Congregation Shaarai Shomoyim (Gates of Heaven), 89 Rivington Street. 1888.
Around 1890, a Roumanian congregation acquired the massive Romanesque Revival former church. Recognized as a center for cantorial music, the synagogue was known as "the Cantor’s Carnegie Hall." Led by Rabbi Jacob Spiegel and offering daily services, the present congregation draws its members from the local Jewish community of residents and merchants.

Walk east on Rivington Street.

IV-9 Economy Candy, 108 Rivington Street.
A favorite destination for those looking for a large assortment of sweets.

IV-10 Schapiro’s Kosher Wines, 126 Rivington Street.
Established in 1899 by Sam Schapiro, and located here since 1905, the company originally made kosher wines in the basement. Production has long-since shifted to upstate New York, but the store remains under the direction of the founder’s grandson.

IV-11 Streit’s Matzos, 148-154 Rivington Street.
Started in 1910 by Aaron Streit, the family-owned business has been producing matzos at this site since 1925. Freshly baked matzos are sold in the corner store.

Walk up Suffolk Street to Stanton Street.

IV-12 Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshe Brzezan, (Congregation Sons of Jacob, People of Brzezan), 180 Stanton Street. 1913.
The small brick synagogue was erected by a group of Polish Jews who organized the congregation in 1892. Although membership has declined in recent years, services still are conducted in the shul whose spiritual leader is Rabbi Joseph Singer.

Continue walking to Clinton Street and turn left.

Congregation Chasam Sopher, (Seal of the Scribe), 8 Clinton Street. 1853.
The second oldest remaining synagogue building in New York, it was erected by Congregation Rodeph Sholom, founded in 1842 by German Jews. The present congregation, formed by Polish Jews, has occupied the building since 1891. Services are held daily in the historic building led by Rabbi Azriel Siff.

Walk up Clinton Street to Houston Street and turn left. Walk to Norfolk Street and turn left.

IV-14 Angel Orensanz Foundation, originally Anshe Chesed (People of Kindness), later Anshe Slonim (People of Slonim), 172 Norfolk Street. 1849-1850.
This is the oldest surviving structure in the city built specifically as a synagogue and at its opening was the largest synagogue in the nation. Constructed by German Jews, its Gothic Revival style was modeled after the Cologne Cathedral. A series of Eastern European congregations occupied the synagogue after Anshe Chesed moved uptown in the 1870s. The building was closed in 1974, and later purchased by Angel Orensanz, a Spanish sculptor who converted the sanctuary into a center for visual and performing arts.

You have reached the end of your Lower East Side Tours. To explore the neighborhood on your own, return to Houston Street, walk west to Essex and Orchard Streets and the nearby blocks where you will find a medley of shops, food stores, and restaurants. We hope you have enjoyed your visits to the Lower East Side and look forward to welcoming you back soon.

with special thanks to