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The Lower East Side, east of Soho, is an area of Manhattan steeped in history.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

The center of the great wave of European immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Lower East Side is an area of many cultural heritages: Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia, Italians, Irish, and others. Remember the Robert De Niro scenes as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather? Those scenes are Francis Ford Coppola's recreation of the Lower East Side at turn of the century, and he actually filmed them down here. It was a place of incredible poverty, but also incredible vibrancy. New York was a harsh city then -- and the poor, of which there were multitudes, suffered greatly. The tenements of the Lower East Side were breeding grounds for diseases like typhus, polio, and tuberculosis. Many children, as well as adults, succumbed. Despite such hardships the great, the talented and the notorious were born, or lived in, this bustling neighborhood: Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, Lee Strasberg, Eddie Cantor, James Cagney, George Burns, Martin Scorsese, Walter Matthau, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegal, to name just a few.

Delancy Street and the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn.

Today, a new wave of immigrants also bring their heritage to the Lower East Side: Asian, Caribbean, and Latino.

In the past 5-6 years, young designers and boutique owners have ventured into this neighborhood and claimed it for their own. They nestle beside shops run by Asians, Latinos, Hasidic Jews, and Arabs. It all adds up to a diverse, fascinating, vital, and quaint atmosphere.

Well, one day last week, our intrepid columnist Kathy Martinez, who so keenly picks JUST the right thing for us each month at the major mall stores, grabbed her sister, Maureen Martinez, and took off on a shopping spree down on the Lower East Side.

That's Maureen on the left, Kathy on the right.
First stop, XULY.Bėt