Being one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, the Lower East Side has long been known as an immigrant and low-class worker neighborhood. In the early 20th century, half a million Jews from Eastern Europe streamed into the Lower East Side, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. During the 20th century, many immigrants from other parts of the world came to the Lower East Side, especially Latin Americans. Despite being a strong Jewish community, the Lower East Side has also made history as a poor slum, especially during the 1980s and early 1990s. In that time, the only reason to go there was to either buy or sell drugs. Most people stayed away from the neighborhood, because the chance of being robbed was very high. In the last 15 years, however, the Lower East Side has changed a lot.
In the mid-1990s, almost literally overnight, the neighborhood was transformed into a trendy club-and-restaurant area populated by young urban professionals, designers, musicians and artists. The Lower East Side today ranks among the hottest neighborhoods in New York City, and new restaurants, lounges and clubs open as fast as others disappear. “Not to remain the same” is the motto here. The other side of this development is that it has lost a lot of its historic ethnic flavor. Extremely high apartment rents forced many Latin American immigrants to move away, and only a handful of traditional Jewish businesses remain. One that remained is Katz’s, a kosher-style delicatessen restaurant, known to serve the best pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs in town.