The Lower East Side Conservancy Tour‘s meeting site, “the former Yiddish Arts Theater (now a multiplex)” is Second Avenue in a nutshell. And while the tour of the Jewish Rialto is one I’ve wanted to do for about three years, it felt even more timely in light of the recent fire.
The arts & culture of the neighborhood was the draw of this tour for me, but in the end it was the architecture & history that I found just as appealing and intriguing. The tour began at the aforementioned former Yiddish Arts Theater. The 2000+ version of Joni Mitchell’s Taxi appears to be “they tore down paradise and put up a multiplex.” Or in NYC, a Chase Bank or a Duane Reade. On this half mile of Second Avenue alone that applied to:
- the Yiddish Arts Theater
- the original Second Avenue Deli
- the Filmore East, among other theaters in that building
I fear the same may ultimately true of the vacant lots formerly known as 119-123 2nd Avenue.
The buildings and stories I found most interesting along the tour were:
- the former Loew’s Commodore, later the Filmore East. “The neighborhood died hard: drugs, thugs, murders and so did the Fillmore. It will live forever in my memory.” The Apple Bank that now stands there was closed today, but I’m definitely going back when it’s open to see the ghosts. I truly wonder if the Lower East Side/East Village has undergone more change than any in the city
- the Saul Birns building, the site of Ratner’s 2nd Avenue (history and Delancey ties here). Although I’m an NYU grad, I’m glad they didn’t win that battle. More on the man here and the building here.
- the Community Synagogue, former St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church whose congregation was decimated in the Slocum Disaster but which partially lives on in Yorkville. While this is generally considered to be an unknown disaster despite being the largest loss of life until 9/11, I was familiar with it. I don’t recall where I learned about it, but I’ve thought about it in the last few years since I moved to Yorkville and walk past the “new” church nearly daily. I was pleased to find the plaque a few weeks ago when I discovered the Community Synagogue. After the tour, I walked to Tompkins Square Park in part to see its memorial to the sinking (easy to miss) as well as to cross it off my NYC Bucket List. For some reason it retained its 1980s status in my brain. Nope, oasis definitely fits
Oh and the blog’s title. She and Sophie Kalish aka Sophie Tucker, the Last of the Red Hot Mammas.
Everyone knows that I’m just Second Hand Rose
From Second Avenue