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Lower East Side art exhibit honors beloved mom-and-pop shops

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — An art installation in a Manhattan park called “Mom & Pops of the L.E.S.” is raising awareness of the struggles small businesses face as gentrification comes to New York City.

Photographers James and Karla Murray have been documenting New York City storefronts for years. They say local stores are an endangered species in the neighborhood.

“We just really want to support the mom and pops by doing this and create a situation where people notice them more,” said James Murray.

The structure is 8 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet deep. Each side represents four iconic corner stores: a bodega, a newspaper stand, a delicatessen and a luncheonette.

Of the shops photographed, only Katz’s Delicatessen remains open. The other three storefronts have gone out of business.

“That’s why we chose the photos that we did, so people can say, ‘oh, I remember shopping there,” said Karla Murray.

The artists applied for a grant to install the piece at Seward Park. They received $10,000 as part of the New York City Parks Department partnership with the retailer UNIQLO.

“Mom & Pops of the L.E.S.” will be on display through June 2019. Though the instillation is open to the public currently, there will be a celebration at Seward Park on Saturday, July 14 at 1 p.m.