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This May: A Crowdsourced History of the Lower East Side

Last year’s first-ever LESHM brought a participatory “clothesline project” to the developing park at Pier 42 on the East River. Photo from LESHM Tumblr.

A friend of mine – and unabashed New York City chauvinist – has been known to observe a street in Manhattan and pronounce something like, “There’s more style on this one block than in all of Ohio.”

(Sorry, Ohio.)

Well, if that’s true, then Lower East Side History Month, beginning May 1, has more creativity, community, diversity, theater, art, storytelling, festivals, museums, movies, and walking tours than – oh, you get the idea. There will be oodles of exciting things going on throughout all of May in the East Village and Lower East Side during the second-annual “L.E.S.H.M.,” as it’s called, all free or low-cost.

First off, this Friday, May 1 is “LES Stories,” a neighborhood-wide participatory event in which everyone is invited to write history on the sidewalks. You can join up with others – who may be armed with historical data to use – via this form, or just go out and write bits of your personal or family histories. Tag it with #LESstories and post the pics online.

From last year’s chalk kick-off.

Just check out this calendar to see all that’s going on. You can take a walking tour of Colonial Jewish New Amsterdam, learn the history of restaurants in Chinatown, or watch films about notable local artists like Richard Foreman or Judith Malina.

There are several annual festivals now happily linked to this monthlong fest, each one celebrating another piece of our immigrant mosaic: the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Festival, the Ukrainian Festival, Loisaida Festival, and Greek Jewish Festival, as well as the Ideas City festival of The New Museum.

Outside the former Second Avenue Deli, from last year.

As part of our usual roster of free programs every month, GVSHP is offering two programs under the LESHM umbrella: an eye-opening “then-and-now” slideshow of East Village locations by photographer Daniel Root, and a walking tour of the E.V.’s amazing community gardens.

Not only does this month – co-founded by Downtown Art Executive Director Ryan Gilliam and former executive director of the Fourth Arts Block, Tamara Greenfield – make the LES’s riches more visible to all, it also better connects the many activists, artists, residents and nonprofit groups who make it all happen. And that means that the amount of style on any one block of New York City – certainly this part of NYC – will only increase.





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