RIVINGTON STREET

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Rivington is a street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in general running from the Bowery east to Pitt Street. In 2010 it exists in three separate pieces, a one-block stretch between Bowery and Chrystie, a main section from Forsyth east to Pitt, and a small piece remaining at Columbia. It was originally laid out as one continuous street from the Bowery to the East River, but over the decades, the construction of Sara Roosevelt Park, Samuel Gompers Houses and Baruch Houses have served to truncate it somewhat. In the colonial era, James Rivington(1724-1802) published a loyalist Tory journal from 1773-1775, the New York Gazetteer; nonetheless, he was an associate of James de Lancey, Jr., and a number of streets in the Lower East Side honor his allies in this neighborhood.

That the Lower East Side is a former enclave for Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe is well-known. The western end of Rivington was, apparently, home to many Romanian Jewish immigrants, as this building at 58-60 between Eldridge and Allen, was formerly the Adath Jashurun synagogue built by immigrants from Iasi, Romania, designed in 1903 by famed architect Emery Roth, later famed for grand residential buildings. Since 1973 it has been a residential building itself, though thankfully the exterior is relatively unaltered.

What does it say on the tablets?

ForgottenFan Matthew Kirshner: If you were wondering what it says on the two tablets above the doorway at 58-60 Rivington (the former Adath Jeshurun synagogue), those are the ten commandments, from right to left.

 

Evidence of Rivington’s Romanian past can also be found at 95 Rivington, between Orchard and Ludlow. This 1840 townhouse has been much altered over the years but its former life as the Talmud Torah synagogue is obvious over the front entrance.

Economy Candy at 108, just west of Essex, has been there since 1937 and has been owned and operated by the Cohen family since the beginning. The smallish, cramped store is a wonderworld for candy aficionadoes, with all the well known brands and others from around the globe you have never heard of. Your webmaster is in here a couple of times a year to stock up on candy fruit slices and chocolate covered pretzels. (The sweet-sour mix on the former and the sweet-salt mix on the latter is at the optimum level for my preference in each case.) It’s only my superhuman resistance level that keeps me from going in more often.

A now-rare colorful painted wall-dog ad for Schapiro’s Kosher Winery. The vintner was founded in 1899 and originally specialized in thick, fruit juice-like product but has broadened its approach over the decades. The wines can be purchased at the Essex Street Market, between Rivington and Delancey, though this warehouse no longer houses the vintner, now based in Monticello, NY.

Botanica San Lazaro, #127 and Rivington Guitars, #125. Botanica are purveyors of religious paraphernalia and hexerei such as candles, statuary, amulets, and herbs thought to aid healing (thus the plant reference incipit in the name; some are Christian, some santeria, some mixtures of the religions of the Caribbean. This store carries the name of Lazarus, the youth Christ raised from the dead in the Gospels, an act presaging His own Resurrection. I shot this in early 2009, and Rivington Guitars has since moved its operations to the East Village, though it has retained the name.

The massive medieval-styled castle at the SE corner of Rivington and Suffolk is the former Public School 160, now the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center:

The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center Inc. is a Puerto Rican/Latino cultural institution that has demonstrated a broad-minded cultural vision and a collaborative philosophy. While CSV’s mission is focused on the cultivation, presentation, and preservation of Puerto Rican and Latino culture, it is equally determined to operate in a multi-cultural and inclusive manner, housing and promoting artists and performance events that fully reflect the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side and the city as a whole.

When I passed by it was undergoing a concerted stab at blasting the graffiti off the exterior, though that appears to be a daunting effort.

ABC No Rio: a large artist’s collective on Rivington Street, well known for decades for political activism and its drive to be a community social center, combining art, music, poetry and intense activism on many political and economic issues affecting local residents. They have been one of the major centers for the performance of spoken word/poetry slams and host a regular weekend matinee show of indie punk thrash metal music, amongst many other activities…The front of the building, whose ownership has been in dispute all along, is decorated with salvaged metal parts and murals depicting moments of nihilistic despair, somewhat ironic because the general aims of the organization are very optimistic – art studio access for everyone, fair and affordable housing and educational outreach to the unfortunate. [NY Daily Photo]

Underwear, #155. Perfect name if they wanted to make it a nightclub, no? Instead a wine bar called Belly occupies the ground floor.

Tailor Shop, nice hand lettered awning sign, at #176 between Clinton and Attorney. A couple of doors down is DM, which of course, stands for Dangerous Mathematicians, quite naturally, a ladies’ clothing shop.

Rivington’s greatest hand lettered sign, #206 east of Ridge, La Borinqueña (Puerto Rican) Meat Market.

Finally, here’s #202 at the corner of Rivington and Ridge, the girlhood home of Genya Ravan, who has been rocking for over 40 years. Here she is with one of her first hits with Goldie and the Gingerbreads in 1964:

From a few years later: Genya Ravan, Back in My Arms Again

SOURCE: Jim Naureckas’ New York Songlines

Jim Naureckas says: Rivington, though publishing a loyalist newspaper, was secretly spying for Washington at the same time–and it’s my understanding that this explains why the street bears his name.

Photographed February 2009; page completed December 15, 2010





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13 Responses to RIVINGTON STREET

  1. Larry says:

    How did you miss the Streit’s matzo factory?

  2. Joseph Ciolino says:

    I attended PS 160 for one year — fall 1965 – 66. What did I learn? I learned what Hell is.

  3. Warren J Eng says:

    I recall going to elementary school at PS 160 way back in the early 1960′s. I was enrolled in what was then called the IGC program for my fifth and sixth grades; this was the only location near where I lived that offered those classes. A great place for a snack was the Streit’s (sp?) matzoh bakery across the street.

  4. Alex Lewinsky says:

    #155 – Underwear:
    In the Ellis Island records appear that Lea and her daughter (14) Schenia Berlin arrived, to live with the husband / father Sam Berlin at 155 Rivington Street. Sam Berlin and his two brothers had a factory and sold fancy underwear (like corsets) . The sign underwear still appear at the front of the building. We are still trying to locate their descendants, but there is reason to believe that was their store.

  5. Jerome Coopersmith says:

    In the 1930s my father, Meyer Kupfersmith, had a law office at 42 Rivington Street. I still have one
    of his business cards. He shared it with Mrs. Porges who was a major Tammany politician, and a man named Mischu who was a notary public. The Democratic Party was actively in the business of helping people, primarily poor immigrants, who needed assistance in coping with the law, such as pushcart peddlers who were ticketed for not having licenses, or threatened with tickets unless they paid off cops. I went back there recently, and found a trendy wine bar at #42. My father would
    think he was on another planet.
    (Signed) Jerry

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  7. Susan W says:

    Does anyone know about the Balkan Record Store, which was at 42 Rivington Street?

  8. Chris says:

    My family lived at 240 Rivington St. During the 1870s and 1880s before moving to Hells Kitchen. They where German immigrants.

  9. Chris says:

    Does anybody have information or pictures of 240 Rivington St. It does not exist anymore.

  10. tony says:

    Hi,
    Does anybody know if the building where the late great George Burns lived is still there?

  11. Anonymous says:

    The synagogue that you say is a romanian talmud torah, is next to a large empty lot. In that lot was a huge synagogue, called the first rumanian american congregation.

  12. Ms.NMR says:

    My father brought the store and had LaBorinquena hand painted on the storefront meat market , after Family business my uncle DEMAS OTERO BECAME THE OWNER and business was BOOMING !!! “DEMAS” BECAME THE BEST “PUERTORIQUENO” BUCHER IN THE LOWEREASTSIDE , MY UNCLE DEMAS WAS A VERY GENEROUS MAN to the PUBLIC , and a hard worker for his family .My UNCLE DEMAS past away inside the meat market just after closing of a heart attack….BUSINESS WAS NEVER THE SAME AGAIN…….. WHEN I GO INTO THE CITY, I GO BACK TO REVINGTON STREET TO REMANIS THE EARLY YEARS WHEN DEMAS WAS THERE SMILING AND GREETING ALL WHO PAST AND PURCHASE HIS PRODUCTS.

  13. HAYDEE says:

    I USED TO LIVE AT 136 SULFOLK ST IN1964-1975 WOW HAD LOTS OF FUN WENT TO P.S.160

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