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The Good Old Days of Poverty:. Merchants and the battle over pushcart peddling on the lower east side. The PLAN. Lower East Side reformers and officials, as well as private developers and city planners wanted to usher in what they called the “East Side of Tomorrow.”

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the good old days of poverty

The Good Old Days of Poverty:

Merchants and the battle over pushcart peddling on the lower east side

the plan
  • Lower East Side reformers and officials, as well as private developers and city planners wanted to usher in what they called the “East Side of Tomorrow.”
  • All they planned to do: abolish pushcarts, raze (demolish) tenements, widen streets, build housing for the middle class & wealthy, and create the East River Drive
  • Along with this came an effort to “de-ethnicize” the area, reforming the behavior of its Jewish and Italian residents, in particular.
  • In the midst of all the attempted reform, many residents would refer to the past days as the “good old days of poverty,” referring to the idea that though the goal was to improve business, the reform efforts actually reduced a lot of immigrant income.
but like what s with the pushcarts
But, like, what’s with the pushcarts?
  • A main point of the reformers’ campaign was to replace the pushcarts with clean and sanitized indoor retail markets.
  • Though, pushcarts provided a lot of work for East Siders.
  • Peddling provided a cheap, familiar place for residents to shop.
  • It was also means for income during hard times for many residents.
  • Reading states that in 1930, around 47,000 family members depended on pushcart earnings, with the pushcart business generating around $40-50 million yearly.
those so called merchants
Those so-called merchants
  • Local Lower East Side merchants, the ones not having to deal with poverty, viewed the course as a public nuisance and a source of public embarrassment.
  • They didn’t want the carts out there to represent the various ethnicities of the Lower East Side.
  • They found themselves offended by the various work ethics of the Jewish and Italian population of the area: seeing them as a “civic menace and disgrace.”
  • Belief that they were not erase ethnicity, just “sanitizing it.”
  • Hoped to replace local color with conventional prosperity.
memories good for business
Memories good for business?
  • Nostalgia was good for business, but street life was harder to control than nightclubs, cabarets, wine cellars, etc.
  • Pushcart business was considered a successful “Wildcard” factor of economy.
  • The so-called” merchants” underestimated the power of nostalgia.
  • There was a growing longing for “the good old days of poverty.”
  • “What the merchants of the East Side failed to recognize was the symbiotic nature of their relationship to the peddlers. They underestimated the power and appeal of a growing nostalgia the old East Side streets and the increasing development of the Lower East Side as a site of cultural pilgrimage.”
the marketplaces
  • Represent and define the community.
  • Since we study “The Peopling of NYC,” it is important that we recognize the significance of the marketplace as an identifier for the population, the city, the food, etc.
  • Whether it is a food market, textile market, etcetera, it is a part of the community it resides in, as well as a part of its residents lives.
  • We study Peopling through the lens of food, and a community’s food markets determine which ethnicities are in a community, the class of people in a community, depending on the type of dish – how long people have been in a community.
  • As the second reading states, “Markets connect the natural world to the urban environment, and the two-way connection raises hope in both communities that will develop economically.”
  • Markets exist in a community as a tradition, a pastime, a business, a source of sustenance, etc.
  • As markets develop, so does a community.
discussion questions
Discussion Questions

In your opinion, what markets define your community? Is your community not specifically defined by markets? If so, how or how not?

Discuss how markets contribute both economically and socially.

3) Does nostalgia hold some type of value in today’s markets? Why or why not?