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Lower East Side

At the turn of the century, the period of the main waves of immigration, many newcomers moved into the Lower East Side. The vast majority of them stayed only a few years, long enough to learn English, find a job and set off to make a living elsewhere in the United States. Some stayed on, though, and today three small ethnic enclaves remain on the Lower East Side: Chinatown, Little Italy and the Jewish quarter.

For some, life hasn’t changed much since their grandparents’ day. These cultural islands are all clustered together. You can see all three in a day, or even in an afternoon.

If you take the subway to Chinatown, you won’t go wrong: the Canal Street Station has signs in both Roman and 46 Chinese characters. The telephone booths have pagoda roofs, narrow shops sell ivory and jade jewellery, grocers display Chinese cabbage, winter melon and snow peas and countless restaurants tumble over one another with their Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechwan specialities.

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