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Demolition for Change – The 1990s Gentrification of the LES


In the late 20th century, the financial boom caused increased interest in real estate and activity on Wall Street, which in turn gave Lower East Side a brand new start.

New York Buildings

Certain areas were already in need of rebuilding as the old tenements became more run-down and dilapidated – the entire neighbourhood was just ripe for an economic turn-around. The tenement buildings were perceived as undervalued, cheap and ready to knock down. The properties were sold and torn down, resulting in grey concrete rubble and bricks filling up the streets of the LES. Every block had at least one burned-out tenement or an empty lot where a building had been demolished. The development was significant, transforming the destroyed and worn buildings into imposing structures with beautiful facades, bringing with them new life to the district.

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New York Buildings

Since the arrivals of creative individuals in the 1980s, progress has been visible in the LES, and in the ‘90s it took a step further with significant changes being made to the district. It was during this period that the start of something brand-new and better was created – a grey jungle of bricks where dreams are born. The smashed grey jungle became a beautiful symbol of change and of fresh beginnings. After the tenements were demolished, optimism and belief began blossoming through the 1990s. During this time, many creative initiatives came to that part of New York and progress was quickly made. It blossomed into a colourful neighbourhood, flourishing from the ashes of neglect.

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New York Buildings

New York Buildings

Many residents got a fresh start along with the district, living there unaware of the fame that the area would later claim. The new opportunities created in the borough made a positive impact on the progress of LES. It’s a fascinating story of an aggregated neighbourhood going through significant changes becoming a distinctive and notable part of the concrete jungle. From demolished buildings to new tenements, and the transition from grey colours into the glowing city it is today. No doubt the LES residents look back on their history and remind themselves of that grey, where it all began.

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