This season’s company day was truly a special one! The HRW US team enjoyed a self-led tour of New York City’s Lower East Side by our very own Oncology OR:BIT expert and resident food enthusiast Lisa Logan. This famous neighborhood nicknamed “LES” was home to most of the city’s early immigrant populations. The late 19th century saw the movement of German and Jewish immigrants, whereas the 20th century welcomed Eastern Europeans, Latin and Caribbean peoples as well as those from South and East Asia. Our tour celebrated the cuisine and history of these immigrants and the impact they had and still have on a neighborhood not too far away from our mid-town office.
Our adventure into the past began at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery on the corner of East Houston and Forsyth Street where we tried their savory potato knish and sweet chocolate cheese knish. Many of LES’s Jewish immigrants populated the city during the early 19th century and departed in the late 19th century for other areas of the city including Queens, south Brooklyn and the Bronx. One iconic Jewish business that remains, is the Knish Bakery, famous for their warm knishes and wonderful bagels.
After walking further down East Houston and taking a right at Allen Street, we found another famous Jewish business, Russ & Daughters. Lisa told us the story of Russ, a polish immigrant who started by selling bagels and appetizers, which are delicious foods to be enjoyed with bagels. Russ, with the help of his wife and three daughters, created a store that offers a selection of rich cream cheeses, fresh fish and delightful sweets. The store has proven so popular that it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. And we celebrated their success by trying some of their freshly made bagels with cream cheese.
We then made a right on Allen Street and learned a bit of LES’s dark past. A century ago, the street was home to almost a million immigrants who lived in tenement buildings that were overcrowded and often lacking in necessities, such as heat and water. The Tenement Museum at the end of the block towards Delancey Street offers a glimpse into how these settlers lived and the struggles they faced in moving to a foreign country. Zoning laws and publications such as Jacob Riis’s “How the Other Half Lives” helped improve the lives of immigrants living in the LES with the introduction of public housing projects and welfare services.
Our tour continued down Allen Street and took a right at Canal Street, where we stopped by Katz’s Delicatessen, Economy Candy, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, The Doughnut Plant and The Pickle Guys, a mix of traditional and modern “millennial” stores that help shape the make-up of the neighborhood today. We sampled best-selling foods such as Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich, Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s Pumpkin cupcakes and the Doughnut Plant’s black and white cake doughnut. During this time Lisa taught us more about the LES and its impact on art and music. The number of mentions of the LES in popular culture are numerous nowadays and it has become a great destination for nightlife, music and art in the city. Bowery Electric, Bowery Ballroom and Arlene’s Grocery hold spaces for modern bands in the alternative rock and electric genres. It’s also seen commercial success in films such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘Sex and the City’.
Our fantastic day highlighted again how by embracing the diversity and innovation these immigrant business owners brought with them, the LES became the historic and celebrated neighborhood it is famous for today. It means recognizing and appreciating differences in people, which helps us at HRW by employing a sensitive approach to our respondent recruitment strategies and finding the most effective yet comfortable ways for patients to participate in our studies. We know that our respondents are people and by treating them as such, we gain their support but also their insights. They want us to partner with more companies interested in placing products on the market that could improve their lives and the lives of people who suffer with their condition in the future, and we’re really excited to support that.
By Avion Cummings