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Revitalized Lower East Side Becoming Trendy, But Also Very Expensive

While The Bar Business Booms, The Locals Fear The Mom And Pops Will Disappear

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – City neighborhoods change before our very eyes. It’s out with the old, and in with the new.

But in some areas, like the Lower East Side, it can be tough for people who can barely afford to live there, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported Friday.

“This street for me is just amazing because it has changed so much just in the last, you know, five to 10 years,” historian Adam Steinberg said.

Walk down any street on the Lower East Side, and you’ll find the clash of old and new – and the new is just a few years old.

Take Orchard Street, south of Grand.

“There weren’t many stores here and there weren’t many new buildings going up but now look at it,” Steinberg said.

The historic New York neighborhood, once teeming with immigrants, is now being taken over by trendy hipsters. Art galleries are pushing out pickle stores.

Needless to say, it’s no longer your father’s Lower East Side.

“The Lower East Side was coming down for your underwear, coming down for socks and your linens and your bride dresses, and your candy, and your pickles and your knishes. It’s not here anymore,” said Jerry Cohen of Economy Candy.

Cohen’s business is still there, 78 years after his dad began the business, but the customers sure have changed. He said he’s now catering to tourists from Europe.

“It’s the sign of the times. It’s the whole re-gentrification process that’s going on where the old is coming out and the new is coming in,” Cohen said.

The new includes a wave of young people, creating a nightlife never seen in the area before. The streets and sidewalks on the Lower East Side really fill up late on weekends, like in places like Kelly’s on Avenue A. The bar business is booming, thanks to a surge of young people coming into the area, Brennan reported.

“It’s busy; it’s hectic. It’s always constantly moving. It’s a steady pace,” bartender Lauren Phillips said.

Phillips said the Lower East Side is the place to make a quick buck.

“Nothing beats it. Midtown doesn’t beat it, West Side … Lower East Side is where it’s at,” Phillips said.

But what if you want to live on the Lower East Side?

“It’s sort of slowly evolving into a gated community, and it’s really gonna be only for the super-wealthy,” long-time tenant Ted Osborne said.

Osborne said tenants are barely hanging on.

“The apartments in my building that used to be affordable are now going for between $2,700 and $3,500 a month and these are for very small apartments,” Osborne said.

So will the Lower East Side, still be the Lower East Side? It survived the waves of crack and crime, and today the immigrants still come. They make up 30 percent of the area’s population, about half of them Chinese and around 12 percent Dominican. The rest are a mix of people from around the globe, Brennan reported.

“Something has to change. You can’t stay with the old, you gotta go on with the new,” Cohen said.

Those same businesses said the days are numbered for mom and pop stores. They fear the big guys coming in. But others said you can’t stop the march of time, and that those new immigrants create a whole new economic force.

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