Tenement houses
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2008.040.007 Oral History Interview with Fani Jacobson January 22, 2008

Fani Jacobson was employed for 53 years at the Daily Forward, a Yiddish newspaper, located in a landmark building near Seward Park. Jacobson was also involved in the socialist organization formerly known as the Workmens Circle (now called Workmens Circle Arbeter Ring). She describes the Lower East Side as a mixed neighborhood comprised of mainly Italian and Jewish sections. She particularly enjoyed the intimate shopping experience and going to the Garden Cafeteria nearly every day for lunch. Jacobson designates 1948 as the neighborhood’s turning point – co-ops were built, Italian residents moved out of the city and onto Long Island, younger generations moved away to avoid living in tenements, and wealthy buyers were able to purchase large pieces of real estate, which were torn down and replaced with luxury buildings. In summary, Jacobson laments the loss of the small town ambience and the disappearance of most of the once-burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side.

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2008.040.014 Oral History Interview with Jan Lee June 18, 2008

MOCA sits down with Jan Lee to discuss his familys longstanding presence in Chinatown and some of the changes that he has witnessed over the decades as the owner of 21 Mott Street. Jan shares the story of how his family first became rooted in Chinatown when his grandfather arrived there at the end of the 19th century. He explains the changes that occurred in Chinatown during the huge wave of Chinese immigration in the 1970s, especially regarding the rise of violence and gangs in the area. Jan also shares the story of how his sister fought this trend through the Chinatown Community Young Lions program and shares anecdotes about his participation in the program. The conversation also delves into Jan’s thoughts on gentrification, both current and past. He offers his thoughts on the importance of Chinatown’s community stakeholders, the internal divisions in Chinatown, some of the dangers posed by external investment, the role that NYC is currently playing, and the role that he believes the city should play to encourage responsible development.