The Lower East Side Goes From Punk To Penthouse

Top new development projects coming to LES’s once graffiti strewn streets

By Jeff Vasishta October 19, 2016
Extell’s One Manhattan Square. Photo courtesy of NY Curbed

The Lower East Side (LES) is an example of the full arc of gentrification. From impoverished immigrants to starving artists to funky hipsters and now the wealthy one percent. A “Gleam Team” of glassy skyscrapers designed by rock star architects are set to transform the skyline into sparkling towers of light and air. But what of the grit, the old world earthiness and edgy punk hipness that once earmarked the area? It’s still there fleetingly with neighborhood fixtures like the 128-year-old Katz’s Deli, the Mercury Lounge and Bowery Bar—but these days you’ll find more glass than art with residents more accustomed to insuring the roof rather than raising it.

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“Obviously everything is relative in New York, these days,” says Frances Katzen, broker with Douglas Elliman. Frances represents the nearly sold out 64 East 1st Street, a boutique seven-unit condo building in stark difference to its towering glassy neighbors. “Of course the Lower East Side has an awesome funky, artsy past which I love but the fact is much of that has gone. There are still pockets here and there but in an island that’s not getting any bigger like Manhattan, finding something in the East Village and Lower East Side that’s on par with what you’d find in the West Village is rare. The tendency is to go up, up and up which can be a little soulless and cookie cutter. That’s why it’s a lot of fun to work on a project that’s so obviously not that.”

Indeed, if anything under ten floors is your priority, you may be out of luck with this cluster of new developments sprouting high into the heavens from the once graffiti strewn streets. Here are a few:

150 Rivington, designed by GLUCK+.  This is a dramatic transformation of the former Streit’s Matzo Factory. If you have a cool $995,000, you could get in the game and enjoy outdoor BBQing, yoga and indoor fitness with all your fabulous neighbors.

150 Rivington Street. Photo courtesy of Stribling Marketing Associates
150 Rivington Street. Photo courtesy of Stribling Marketing Associates

100 Norfolk hangs impressively in thin air twelve stories above the street, each level juts further out than the one below. Such engineered elegance courtesy of the architects ODA comes at a price. Specifically, $1.25 million to $4. 89 million.

One Manhattan Square is not for those with a fear of heights. A trek up Kilimanjaro may prove less intimidating than living on the top floors of this 815 story condo building. If wind gusts, clouds and panoramic views are your thing, you’ll also be able enjoy a 45,000 square foot garden with a tea pavilion and garden rooms. You’ll be relieved to know that it’s not on the roof top. Prices start at $1.15 million

64 East 1st Street – If glass is something you like in your hand after a hard day’s work, rather than have your building mostly composed of, then this place might be your thing.  The relatively sensible boutique collection has seven full floor residences designed by GF55 Partners in the heart of the Bowery District. The advantages of an intimate townhouse-like affair are elevators that open into your apartment, a pre-war vibe with physical beams recreating the essence of what was once the LES.

64 East 1st Street. Photo courtesy of GF55 Partners
64 East 1st Street. Photo courtesy of GF55 Partners

196 Orchard – Architect Ismael Leyva is nothing if not unique. The Jet Mist polished granite base and Gilded Bronze glazed Spanish brickwork will have you wondering if you’ve stumbled into ancient Incan treasure trove. There’s also an Equinox gym and rooftop terrace. $1.07 million gets you in the conversation.

204 Forsyth – Boutique condos with 11 apartments start at the lofty $2.8 million. Aussie designer Paris Formino handled the interiors.

50 Clinton  – Brick is back—but with a price. $2.12 million will also get you herringbone floors and crown moldings.

215 Chrystie – It’s hard not to relax in this spa like retreat in the heavens. You’ll need to soothe your nerves after splashing out the truly gobsmacking $7.27 million (a starting price).  It’s about as far from the spirit of the LES as you can get. If you can afford that, why not work from home in your own luxury hotel room in the Caribbean?

250 Chrystie. Photo courtesy of
250 Chrystie. Photo courtesy of

Rumors are even swirling that something glassy and swish will sit above a rebuilt Katz deli, who have recently sold the air right above the famous eatery, famous for being the setting of Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.

“The most important thing is that the future of Katz’s is secure — at the end of the day, no developer can ever come in and knock us down to put in a high rise. At no point will anyone value the corner of Houston and Ludlow for anything other than Katz’s Delicatessen. A year after our 125th anniversary, this will help ensure that we can see our 150th, and hopefully many more to come.”

Well, at least something is sacred. Sort of.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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