Friday, July 16, 2010

Visitors of the Week: The Ornstein Family

Over the summer, look out for this new feature - Visitor of the Week! Each week we'll profile a different person who's been to the Tenement Museum. If you're coming to visit and would like to be profiled on the blog, send us as email.

Meet the Ornstein Family, recent visitors to the Tenement Museum. Pictured here are Leslie, Greg and Toriah. They live in Gainesville, Florida, where Leslie is a teacher and Greg is a data analyst. Said Leslie, “We love the City, so we’re visiting.”

Greg also has Lower East Side family ties. His father, Benjamin, lived on Orchard Street for a time and eventually lived all over the Lower East Side. Benjamin was born in 1936, and in 1957 he moved to California, where Greg was born. The Ornsteins wanted to see the neighborhood where Benjamin grew up in the 1930s and 1940s. They actually had specific addresses where he resided on the Lower East Side, including 739 East 5th Street, 89 Avenue B between 5th and 6th streets, and 26 Avenue B between 1st and 2nd streets. After their tour they planned on visiting these places and seeing what they look like now compared to when Benjamin lived there.

The Ornsteins were seeing “Piecing it Together” when I chatted with them, and about a year ago they had seen “Getting By.” They weren’t sure what to expect from the new tour, but they remembered parts of “Getting By” that were resonant to them.

Greg commented on the upgrades of the living conditions. “What I liked was the sense of the technological progression. It began as just a squalid little corner, then the air shafts were installed, and then electric light and flowing water. And as we went through the building, we got a sense of how the tenements became a more humane place to live.” [Read more about living conditions in the tenements.]

Leslie said, “I thought it was fascinating that our understanding of 'tenement' was that it was where poor people lived. And we learned that ‘tenement’ doesn’t necessarily mean poverty. [The negative connotation] is something that it has gained over the years. It’s become associated with negativity and poverty.”

-posted by Devin

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