After-School Program Brings LES Students To Essex Crossing Sites

By Sydney Pereira, Patch Staff

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LOWER EAST SIDE, NY — An after-school program connected some 40 elementary school kids to the Lower East Side — and its sponsors, the developers of Essex Crossing, hope to bring it back next fall.

The program, called City Seekers, took kids to various sites in the neighborhood — from construction sites and the rooftop of an Essex Crossing building to the Tenement Museum and a trip to Trader Joe’s to learn about nutrition.

For one mother of 11- and 9-year-old boys, it was a positive experience — and she hopes the program returns in the fall.

“They both loved it,” Jennifer Vasquez said of her two sons, who go to P.S. 188/The Island School on the Lower East Side. “I feel like they [got] to discover what the Lower East Side has and the things that they can do.”

Her boys went to the rooftop of an Essex Crossing building as well as learned about environmental issues in Manhattan’s rivers, Vasquez said. A born-and-raised Lower East Sider herself, the program showed her kids, who now live in Harlem, more about the neighborhood they were born in.

“They were eager to learn about the city,” said Vasquez.

The after-school program ran twice a week for eight weeks with about 40 third- through fifth-graders from The Island School, The Nathan Straus Preparatory School, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt School.

Essex Crossing, the sprawling development that has been rising in a series of mixed-use buildings over the past few years, has become emblematic of the changing neighborhood. The lots sat empty for decades after old tenements were razed in the 1960s. About half the apartments in the new buildings will be below market rate. A more recent change: the historic Essex Street Market closed and relocated to a fancy new digs across the street. The former building will eventually be torn down to make way for another tower.