Must-See Lower East Side
by Chris Wallace, 02/13/2013
New Museum. Photo: Dean Kaufman
Arts & Culture
New York City has long been a movie town, both as a shooting location and as a cineast paradise, and there are numerous repertory, indie and art-house venues spread throughout the City. The Sunshine Cinema is an art-house with stadium seating and big screens, and the venue features sleeper and breakout indie films for good, long stretches, in case you missed them when they premiered. A couple of blocks north, the Anthology Film Archives screens hard-to-find world cinema, as well as classic and newly made avant-garde films.
If you prefer art you can view from a closer vantage, there is a range of destinations. The New Museum is the Lower East Side's primary cultural hub, mounting shows of great global interest (a 2011 installation by Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul), sheer fun (the three-story slide through the building installed for the Carsten Höller show), challenging ideas (Rem Koolhaas' critique of the architectural and urbanism preservation movement in his Cronocaos exhibition) and local import (the current show NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, a retrospective exhibition of a single year). The impressively stocked bookstore alone is worth a visit, and the café, by Birdbath created by The City Bakery, has some of the best cookies in town.
The Tenement Museum, meanwhile, makes for an illuminating exploration of New York City history. Six immaculately restored apartments, from five different decades in the building's 150-year history, re-create precisely what the tenement apartments would have looked like over the years. A few blocks away, in what was the first synagogue built in the area, the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue provides a lens into the lives of some of the neighborhood's first Jewish inhabitants. The 1887 synagogue was restored in glorious detail over the course of more than 20 years. In addition to showcasing the area's history, it still hosts services. The renovation was by no means staid—it includes a stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans.