For this week’s Mahal, I headed over to St. Mark’s Bookshop, for the release of Clayton Patterson’s new book, Jews: A People’s History of the Lower East Side. Locals, Jim Feast, Chris Brandt, and Frances Goldin accompanied him on the mic, to tell their tale of the Lower East Side. I got to catch up with the man himself, in the interview below to learn some more.
VICE: How did you decide to tell the history of the Lower East Side through Jewish people?
Clayton Patterson: We are at the end of a long period of creative achievements and progressive politics which were about making life better for the the people. Gentrification is what killed the muse. It was cheap rent and the chance of living an inexpensive lifestyle that made so much possible. Gentrification fed the real-estate boom, which eventually led to the disappearance of music venues, mom and pop businesses, and death of what made the LES unique. I was fortunate to have been a part of the last generation which experienced the wild and free LES. I am interested in saving the history of the LES. I have a major archive that covers many of the different scenes and the characters who made the neighborhood exciting. The archive consists of thousands of photographs, a couple of thousand hours of videos, graffiti tag stickers, political street posters, banners, branded heroin bags, show post cards, etc… Before gentrification, the LES was one of the first places the government would send the new immigrant populations. Over the last 150 years there have been a number different waves of Jewish immigrants. As the population worked their way up the social ladder there were always businesses and people who stayed behind keeping alive the culture and social influences. Since, the LES was rich with Jewish history, an anthology of Jewish history was an obvious choice. -Taji Ameen
Head over to VICE and read Taji’s full article.