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Thread: The end of the Bowery as a skid row

  1. #1

    Default The end of the Bowery as a skid row

    I read a book ounce called "Life on the Bowery" that detailed the remaining flop houses on the bowery.

    Just wondering which ones are still left? I heard the Sunshine hotel is closing, i was wondering about the others.

  2. #2


    That was a great book. After reading that I purchased the documentary "Sunshine Hotel" and I highly recommend that as well. Last time I was by the Sunshine (about two months ago) it was still open. I hadn't heard anything about it closing, but I know Nate Smith, the guy who kept that place going pretty much 24/7, died a few years back. I always figured the Sunshine wouldn't last too long after he passed.

    I think the Whitehouse is still going, catering more to international tourists (mostly students) than anything these days.

    As much as the Bowery is changing, it's still a heck of a lot less antiseptic than the areas of the city most people see when they visit New York. In fact, it's one of the few places I can walk around in Manhattan and feel like I'm even IN the New York I remember growing up.

  3. #3
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Default Perhaps not quite the end...

    May 10, 2009

    A Living Museum of Sad Stories


    George Buchanan, 73, a resident at the White House Hotel.

    DEPENDING on its occupants, the lobby of the White House Hotel, a 92-year-old single-room-occupancy building on the Bowery near Bond Street, can have the feel of a sanitarium, minus the institutional obsession with cleanliness.

    Residents sit hunched over cans of soda or cups of coffee, eyes closed or staring, lost in silence. A man in a wheelchair whose left leg ends in a stump below the knee can often be found there, listening to music on earphones. After a time, he laboriously wheels himself across the lobby, through another door and down the hall toward his room.

    One formerly homeless man refuses to leave the building, according to fellow residents. He looks out the window, but as far as anyone knows, he has never ventured out on the street.

    The White House is a four-story red-brick building at 338 Bowery, the last of the dozens of flophouses that once largely defined the city’s Skid Row. Lately, the White House has been the site of a standoff of sorts, the center of a slow-moving drama involving real estate interests, matters of historical preservation and the lives of a handful of poor, essentially helpless men.

    The 18 current residents pay rents ranging from $7.16 to $9.61 a night and live in the hotel permanently. As was the case years ago, when the White House and the other flophouses were filled with men who signed up for daily or weekly stays, many of the residents struggle with mental illness and addiction.

    Most tenants owe at least two months’ rent, according to Patrick Jones, a lawyer for Metro Sixteen Hotel LLC, the company, affiliated with the hotelier Sam Chang, that bought the building in 2007. Some have not paid rent at all since that date, Mr. Jones said.

    Metro Sixteen’s plan was to redevelop the property into a proper hotel, Mr. Jones said. But after the purchase, the building was included in an extension of the NoHo Historic District, severely hampering the developer’s plans.

    “It was a surprise,” Mr. Jones said. “If there was an inkling that this was going to be placed in a historic district, the owners wouldn’t have purchased it.”

    Metro Sixteen has applied to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to develop the site, asking to be considered under the commission’s hardship provision. The city has not yet ruled on the request. But if it is granted, the developer could demolish the hotel and rebuild on the site, effectively bulldozing one of the last remnants of the Bowery’s flophouse past.

    A man named Euzebius Ghelardi opened the White House in 1917 as a lodging house, and about a decade ago the hotel also began operating as a hostel frequented by backpackers and students. Foreign tourists, often equipped with cameras and camcorders to document their travels, provide most of the revenue.

    The flophouse regulars and the tourists sometimes mingle in the spare lobby that is furnished with a few tables, chairs and vending machines. Some residents delight in offering advice on local attractions. For others, the presence of transient guests yields what one longtime resident described as “the feeling of animals being on display.”

    Meyer Muschel, the White House’s manager, estimated that every year a handful of journalists, filmmakers or students stopped by to write about or to film the place.

    Was he weary of these periodic attempts to document life at the White House? Mr. Muschel, a brash former corporate lawyer who also serves as president of Congregation Ohab Zedek, an Upper West Side synagogue, said that he was.

    Some tenants, he added, resent the fact that the White House is regarded as a repository of “human interest” stories. At the same time, the convenient concentration of so much human frailty has transformed the hotel into a living museum of sad stories.

    The White House’s living quarters are cubicles four feet long by six feet wide. They line long, narrow hallways in a way that suggests horse stables. Since only so many belongings can be stuffed into the cubicles, there is much overflow into the hallways. Personal effects collect on available ledges; clothes pile up on free surfaces and dangle from hooks.

    THE sight of a frail man like George Buchanan, 73, seated on his small bed is unsettling and claustrophobic, even with the door open. Mr. Buchanan, whose gray mustache is stained dark brown at the midpoint of his upper lip, has lived in the White House for 26 years. His slow gait, he said, is the result of congestive heart failure.

    Once he went up to the second floor, but he won’t again. He used to enjoy reading, but his failing eyesight has prevented it in recent years. “I’m at a loss now for how to pass the time,” he said.

    There are artists, too. Lee Wells, for example, is the author of “Escape From Mississippi: Diary of a Black Boy Growing Up Down South,” a self-published book with a loose approach to spelling and punctuation.

    In the past few months, three White House residents have accepted buyouts, an option available to the men who remain. But Brandon Kielbasa, an organizer with the Cooper Square Committee, a tenants rights group, said that even a windfall of cash would not necessarily help them find homes. Most have no family, few friends, and sporadic, if any, income, he said, and as a result they are content to cling to what they know.

    As one longtime resident put it, in spite of his hard feelings for the White House, “This is the Alamo.”

  4. #4


    Back in the 70s, my best friend had a summer job as a truck driver for a company that supplied and laundered restaurant linen - napkins, table cloths, kitchen whites.

    On one run through Lower Manhattan, a package fell out the back of the van. He figured it happened on the Bowery, because the next day there was a news item about several Bowery denizens wearing chef uniforms.

  5. #5
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    LOL ^

    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post

    DEPENDING on its occupants, the lobby of the White House Hotel, a 92-year-old single-room-occupancy building on the Bowery near Bond Street, can have the feel of a sanitarium, minus the institutional obsession with cleanliness ...

    ... Lately, the White House has been the site of a standoff of sorts, the center of a slow-moving drama involving real estate interests, matters of historical preservation and the lives of a handful of poor, essentially helpless men.

    ... Most tenants owe at least two months’ rent, according to Patrick Jones, a lawyer for Metro Sixteen Hotel LLC, the company, affiliated with the hotelier Sam Chang, that bought the building in 2007. Some have not paid rent at all since that date, Mr. Jones said.

    Metro Sixteen’s plan was to redevelop the property into a proper hotel, Mr. Jones said. But after the purchase, the building was included in an extension of the NoHo Historic District, severely hampering the developer’s plans.

    Metro Sixteen has applied to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to develop the site, asking to be considered under the commission’s hardship provision. The city has not yet ruled on the request. But if it is granted, the developer could demolish the hotel and rebuild on the site ...
    When Sam Chang bought the White House Hotel, with plans to McSam it, it was clear that the building was within the zone that folks wanted to be included in the extended NoHo District. His reknown as a builder of Piles of Stuff is possibly one reason that the extension was given the OK. Folks down this way know he builds Stuff that offers nothing to the streetscape; we have no interest in giving him the leeway to perpetrate such garbage when it can be stopped.

    “It was a surprise,” Mr. Jones said. “If there was an inkling that this was going to be placed in a historic district, the owners wouldn’t have purchased it.”
    This statement is hardly believable (spoken by a lawyer, after all ). The Chang Gang more likely hoped they could start tearing it apart before it was protected.

  6. #6
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    Jan 2007
    west village


    here are two threads i did last summer on the whole of the bowery, including all of the infamous former flophouses and joints.

    annotated courtesy of the fabulous nysonglines and forgottenny blogs, among a few other sources. enjoy!

    bowery walk - part one,17441.0.html

    bowery walk - part two,17444.0.html

  7. #7
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Near the beginning of this short film there is a great shot of the old Dry Dock Savings Bank that used stand on the SE corner of The Bowery and East 3rd (where the Bowery Hotel now stands).

    Street of Forgotten Men - The Bowery

    Description: A tour of The Bowery in New York City
    during the American depression

  8. #8
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Winter bloom by Bowery

    A tree at 19 E. Third St. across from the men’s shelter near the Bowery was showing a lot of sole.

  9. #9
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    On the Bow’ry


    104-106 Bowery in 1940, 1980 and 2010.

    audio slide show

    OPEN the door to a small hotel on the Bowery.

    A small hotel, catering to Asian tourists, that used to be a flophouse that used to be a restaurant. That used to be a raucous music hall owned by a Tammany lackey called Alderman Fleck, whose come-hither dancers were known for their capacious thirsts. That used to be a Yiddish theater, and an Italian theater, and a theater where the melodramatic travails of blind girls and orphans played out. That used to be a beer hall where a man killed another man for walking in public beside his wife. That used to be a liquor store, and a clothing store, and a hosiery store, whose advertisements suggested that the best way to avoid dangerous colds was “to have undergarments that are really and truly protectors.”

    Climb the faintly familiar stairs, sidestepping ghosts, and pay $138 for a room, plus a $20 cash deposit to dissuade guests from pocketing the television remote. Walk down a hushed hall that appears to be free of any other lodger, and enter Room 207. The desk’s broken drawer is tucked behind the bed. Two pairs of plastic slippers face the yellow wall. A curled tube of toothpaste rests on the sink.

    Was someone just here? Was it George?

    Six years had passed since I was last in this building at 104-106 Bowery. Back then it was a flophouse called the Stevenson Hotel, and I was there to write about its sole remaining tenant, a grizzled holdout named George; toothless, diabetic, not well. He lived in Cubicle 40, about the length and width of a coffin.

    All the other tenants, who had paid $5 a night for their cubicles, had moved on or died off, including the man known as the Professor, and Juliano, who used to beat George. The landlord, eager to convert the building into a hotel, a real hotel, had paid some of them to leave. But George had refused, saying the last offer of $75,000 was not enough.

    It was as though he belonged to the structure, a human brick, cemented by the mortar of time to the Professor and Alderman Fleck and all the others who gave life to an ancient, ordinary building on the Bowery.

    Now the place is the U.S. Pacific Hotel, and George is nowhere to be seen. I dim the lights in my own glorified cubicle, and give in to musings about his whereabouts, and long-ago murders, and the Bowery, where, the old song said, they say such things and they do strange things.

    On the Bow’ry. The Bow’ry.

    THE building at 104-106 Bowery, between Grand and Hester Streets, has been renovated, reconfigured and all but turned upside down over the generations, always to meet the pecuniary aspirations of the owner of the moment. Planted like a mature oak along an old Indian footpath that became the Bowery, it stands in testament to the essential Gotham truth that change is the only constant.

    Its footprint dates at least to the early 1850s, when the Bowery was a strutting commercial strip of butchers, clothiers and amusements, with territorial gangs that never tired of thumping one another. Back then the building included the hosiery shop, which promised “all goods shown cheerfully” — although an argument one night between two store clerks, Wiley and Pettigrew, ended only after Wiley “drew a dark knife and stabbed his antagonist sixteen times,” as The New York Times reported with italicized outrage.

    Over the years the Bowery evolved into a raucous boulevard, shadowed by a cinder-showering elevated train track and peopled by swaggering sailors and hard-working mugs, fresh immigrants and lost veterans of the Civil War. The street was exciting, tawdry and more than a little predatory. The con was always on.

    By 1879, 104-106 Bowery had become a theater and beer hall, with a bartender named Shaefer who was arrested twice in two weeks for selling beer on Sunday. The adjacent theater, meanwhile, sold sentiment.

    During one Christmas Day performance of “Two Orphans,” precisely at the audience-pleasing moment when the blind girl resolves to beg no more, someone shouted “Fire!” A false alarm, it turned out, caused when a cook in the restaurant next door dumped hot ashes onto snow. The crowd returned to rejoice in the blind girl’s triumph.

    The theater changed names almost as often as plays: the National, Adler’s, the Columbia, the Roumanian, the Nickelodeon, the Teatro Italiano. In 1896, when it was known as the Liberty, the police arrested two Italian actors for violating the “theatrical law.” He was dressed as a priest, she as a nun.
    But the building’s dramas were not relegated solely to the stage. One of its theater proprietors skipped to Paris with $1,800 in receipts, leaving behind a destitute wife, six children and many unpaid actors. One of its upstairs lodgers drowned with about 40 others when an overloaded tugboat, chartered by the Herring Fishing Club, capsized off the Jersey coast.

    In 1898, two men were laughing and drinking at a vaudeville performance when a third walked up, drew a revolver and shot one of them in the head. Hundreds scrambled for the exits to cries of “Murder!”

    The shooter, Thompson, told the police that he had seen the victim, Morrison, on the street with his wife. “He has ruined my life; broken up my home,” Thompson said, as he gazed at the man groaning on the floor. “It’s a life for a wife.”

    And the fires, the many fires. The one in 1898 gutted the building and displaced the families of Jennie Goldstein and Sigmund Figman, while the one in 1900 sent 500 theatergoers fleeing into the Christmas night, prompting a singular Times headline: “Audience Gets Out Without Trouble, but the Performers Were Frightened — Mrs. Fleck Wanted Her Poodle Saved.”

    MRS. MABEL FLECK, whose poodle survived, was the wife of the proprietor, one Frederick F. Fleck: city alderman, bail bondsman and self-important member of the court to the Bowery king himself, Timothy D. Sullivan — “Big Tim” — a Tammany Hall leader said to control all votes and vice south of 14th Street.

    Alderman Fleck was there whenever Big Tim staged another beery steamboat outing for thousands of loyal Democrats, or another Christmas bacchanal for Flim-Flam Flannigan, Rubber-Nose Dick, Tip-Top Moses and hundreds of other Bowery hangers-on. There to provide bail when some Tammany hacks were charged with enticing barflies at McGurk’s Suicide Hall to vote the Democratic ticket in exchange for a bed, some booze and five bucks.

    When Alderman Fleck was not demonstrating his Tammany fealty, he was managing the Manhattan Music Hall, here at 104-106 Bowery, a preferred place for dose in de know.

    But the city’s good-government types, the famous goo-goos, hated how the Bowery reveled in its debauchery. In 1901, a reform group called the Committee of Fifteen raided Alderman Fleck’s establishment and charged him with maintaining a disorderly house. He responded by calling the arresting officer “a dirty dog.”

    Undercover agents testified to having witnessed immoral acts on stage and off. One reported seeing a woman lying on a table, moaning; when he asked what was wrong, he was told she had just consumed $60 worth of Champagne, and so was feeling bad.

    But this was Big Tim’s Bowery. A jury quickly acquitted Fleck, prompting a night of revelry at the music hall. A Times reporter took note:

    “Strangers as soon as they entered were piloted in the same old way by a watchful waiter to the gallery and curtained boxes upstairs, and as if by magic women ‘performers’ in abbreviated costumes appeared on the scene with capacious thirsts, which could be satisfied only with many rounds of drinks at the same music hall — $1 per round.”

    Soon, Alderman Fleck was competing in the “fat man’s race” at one of Big Tim’s annual outings, weighing in at 260 pounds. Soon he was back in his rightful place as a minor character along a boulevard so chock-full of characters — the predatory, the dissolute, the tragicomic — that slumming parties of uptown swells would tour the Bowery to gawk and feign allegiance. Some locals were even hired to portray Bowery “characters” to meet tourist expectations.

    But denizens who lingered too long on the Bowery often paid a price. A few doors up from Fleck’s place was a saloon owned by the famous Steve Brodie, whose survival of a supposed leap from the Brooklyn Bridge earned him the lucrative lifetime job of recounting the tale. After his premature demise at 43, the saloon’s new owners hired his son, Young Steve Brodie, as a tough-talking character, but he soon drank himself into the more tragic role of Bowery inebriate.

    As he lay dying in the gutter, young Brodie, 27, gazed up at a concerned police officer and whispered: “I’m in, Bill. Git me a drink of booze, quick.”
    The officer obliged. It was his civic duty.

    The downfall of Alderman Fleck, who once sported diamond-encrusted cufflinks, was less dramatic. First the city marshal came after him for not paying for 281 chickens he had ordered for yet another Tammany dinner.

    Then his poodle-loving wife sued for divorce. Then he wound up spending a night in jail, following a row with a butcher over another unpaid bill.
    His obituary a quarter-century later made no reference to goo-goo raids or fat men’s races, to precious poodles, Big Tim Sullivan or a street called the Bowery. It described him instead as having been in the theatrical business for many years, which seems close enough.

    THE theaters and music halls, the museums for suckers and the likes of Steve Brodie — they all gradually faded from the Bowery. Big Tim Sullivan, who in later years championed women’s suffrage and labor law reform after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, was seen less and less, in part because disease, probably syphilis, had rendered him mentally incompetent.

    One afternoon in 1913, Sullivan escaped from his handlers, only to be struck and killed by a freight train in the Bronx. His body lay unclaimed in the morgue for 13 days, until a police officer, glancing at yet another corpse bound for potter’s field, did a double-take and shouted: “Why, it’s Tim! Big Tim!”

    More and more, the Bowery became the place for men with nowhere else to go: thousands and thousands of them, from war veterans to would-be masters of the universe, often seeking the deadening effects of alcohol and, later, drugs. They found cheap beds and brotherhood in flophouses that fancied themselves as hotels.

    After housing a variety of passing ventures — a moving-picture theater, a rag-sorting operation, a penny arcade — the building at 104-106 Bowery became the Comet Hotel, a flophouse. And it remained a flophouse for decades, as wholesale restaurant suppliers and lighting-fixture stores moved onto the street; as many other flophouses disappeared; as the fits and starts of gentrification claimed loft space.

    In the late 1970s, the Comet’s lodgers would trudge up the 17 steps to the lobby, where a television hung from the wall and a proprietor in a cage-like office collected the fee — slightly less than $3 a night — slipped under a grate. One of the floors upstairs was an open room, with 65 beds and 65 lockers. The other two floors had 100 cubicles combined, each one measuring 4 feet by 6 feet, with partitions 7 feet high and a ceiling of chicken wire.

    Cubicle No. 40 was home to a Greek immigrant named George Skoularikos. A sometime poet, he moved here in 1980 and stayed, and stayed. As it became the Stevenson Hotel. As the other men left or died. As the current owners, Chun Kien Realty, tried to entice him with money to move.

    By 2004, when I visited George, he was 74 and this flophouse’s last lodger, sleeping in a cramped, green-painted cubicle that he secured with a loop of wire. A Housing Court judge and a Legal Aid lawyer were advising him to take the landlord’s offer of $75,000. Looking with exasperation upon this frail, sick man, the judge had said, “And who do you think will last the longest?”

    But George would not, perhaps could not, leave.

    Today, at 104-106 Bowery, what used to be a hosiery store and a beer hall and a theater and a penny arcade and a flophouse is now a hotel of less than luxurious means. Tucked between a Vietnamese restaurant and the Healthy Pharmacy, it has a blue marquee in English and Chinese. The cubicles and chicken wire are gone, as is George.

    I found him, eventually, in court files. In late 2004, a few months after my column about him, a city-appointed psychiatrist came calling to the squalid and all-but-deserted flophouse. She later wrote that George was delusional, paranoid and in need of a guardian who could help move him to “more amenable accommodations.”

    But George refused to go. At one point a social worker tried to take him to a hospital, but George barricaded himself on the flophouse’s second floor. Police officers eventually forced open the door to conduct a search by flashlight. And there they found him, hiding in a cubicle, a Bowery holdout.
    In late 2005, the matter of George Skoularikos was adjudicated in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

    ORDERED, that the landlord pay George’s court-appointed guardian the sum of $80,000;

    ORDERED, that the guardian arrange for “an appropriate place of abode” for George in Greece, and set up a mechanism for payment of his bills;

    ORDERED, that a caseworker accompany George to Greece to make sure his new residence is properly established.

    In a sense, this Bowery building that once received George had returned him to his native Greece, where he would die a few months later, in April 2006. There was enough money from his settlement with the landlord to pay for his funeral and marble tomb.

    SCREAMS at the bottom of the night disrupt a Bowery sleep. A woman on the other side of the hotel is crying, “I love you, I love you,” to someone who seems not to love her back. Her wails last an hour, unleashing into the pitch a swirl of imagined sounds and whispers.

    The glass shimmers of a million beer mugs. The faint strains of a thousand vaudeville ditties. The entwined polyglot murmurs, of English and German and Yiddish and Italian and Mandarin — and Bowery. The stentorian blather of a Tammany blowhard. The final exhalation of a dying inebriate. A weepy farewell toast to Big Tim. The shouts of “Fire!” The bark of a poodle.
    The echoing clatters of a lone man building a barricade.

    At morning’s light, the sounds recede into the walls. It’s a new day on the Bowery.
    Last edited by Merry; March 12th, 2010 at 08:21 PM.

  10. #10
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Bowery's History on Display in New Exhibition — at Whole Foods

    The supermarket, a symbol of the Bowery's ongoing gentrification, will host the exhibit on two centuries of history.

    By Patrick Hedlund

    Whole Foods on the Bowery at East Houston Street. (Flickr/M.V. Jantzen)

    LOWER EAST SIDE — The Bowery's bygone days as a gritty thoroughfare known for commerce, corruption and creativity will go on display Thursday in a new exhibit opening in one of the stretch's more controversial new arrivals.

    Popular supermarket Whole Foods — whose opening nearly four years bolstered the Bowery's move toward upscale gentrification — will host an opening-night reception for "On the Bowery," an exhibit looking back at more than two centuries of the notorious avenue's history.

    "Especially in coming into a neighborhood that does have so much history, certainly some people weren't welcoming a huge store like ours," acknowledged Elly Truesdell, marketing team leader for the Bowery and East Houston Street location, of the irony of having Whole Foods host the event.

    The exhibit "On the Bowery" opens
    Thursday night at Whole Foods
    on the Lower East Side.

    "It was more an issue when we were opening and before we came into the community, because I think people had an idea of what a big store and corporation could mean for the Bowery," she added. "Now that we've been here for coming on four years, people I hope have seen the kind of work we do in the community."

    The exhibit, held in Whole Foods' second-floor auditorium space, traces the Bowery's early days as a hub for theater, nightlife and politics through its transition into New York's skid row, housing both the indigent and a crop of rising artists.

    The exhibit seeks to educate viewers about the Bowery's rich past as a way to draw attention to forces of development that are currently threatening to erase its history, said organizers, which include the Lower East Side History Project and Bowery Alliance of Neighbors.

    In addition to the historical and cultural information on display, Thursday's event will also feature foods hearkening back to the Lower East Side's early days, from pickles and pretzels to smoked salmon and various kosher selections, Truesdell said.

    She added that the Lower East Side History Project, a nonprofit preservation group, approached Whole Foods with the concept, and that the store was more than happy to oblige.

    "We try to work with [local groups] and try to recognize what used to be here and try to uphold those traditions," Truesdell said, despite the fact that Whole Foods has been seen as a harbinger of a newer, cleaner, more development-friendly Bowery.

    "I think people have been very happily surprised since we opened because of events like this."

    The exhibit opens Thurs., Oct. 28, at Whole Foods, 95 E. Houston St., second-floor, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

  11. #11
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Stunning photo of Mulberry Street.

    Bowery Wars Brings Bad Old Days Back To The Streets

    By Jen Carlson

    Mulberry Street, 1900's

    Downtown Art continues its Inheritance series with a site-specific music theater piece titled The Bowery Wars, Part 1, which will be brought to life by a company of 22 young performers in the streets of the Lower East Side starting April 30th. It's like a sequel to Gangs of New York, but with NYC's turbulent past given the live and in your face treatment! (Bonus: no Cameron Diaz.) Here's a little primer on the piece:
    In 1903, Tammany Hall, which had been ousted and humiliated two years earlier, burns to retake city hall, while on the streets of the Lower East Side the ongoing rivalry for control of the Bowery between the Five Pointers and the Eastmans explodes in the worst gunfight New York had ever seen. For six hours, over 100 gangsters battled beneath the Allen Street 'el', without interference from the police. The Bowery Wars, an epic told in two parts, weaves into these historical events the story of two immigrant teens, Romeo and Juliet. New York City's history is our shared inheritance. The Bowery Wars looks at our city a hundred years ago, when the Lower East Side was the densest place on earth, and poses questions about the will to survive in the face of hardship and violence.
    Act I will begin at Lafayette and Jersey streets and end on Forsyth, and Act II will be performed in a vacant lot at 19 East 3rd Street. At the latter section, a live band will also be performing, where at the former, audiences will hear the dialogue and score on individual mp3 players synced to the live action on the streets. More information and ticket details can be found here.

  12. #12
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    Oct 2002


    In Which We Mark Graves Like Birthplaces

    Ceci N’est Pas CBGB


    Stand at the corner of the Bowery and Rivington Street, and look around. In every direction, nearly as far as you can see, you’ll be greeted by awnings announcing “Restaurant Supplies”: Regency, to your left; APLUS, to your right; J&D, East Coast, and Admor Restaurant Supplies and Equipment across the street. They are functional, no-frills places, with concrete floors and pots and pans stacked on plain steel shelving units.

    Now walk three blocks up the Bowery, just past the intersection with Houston Street. It might not look so different. Here is an awning reading “Pat’s Restaurant Equip.”; across the street is a large business with concrete floors and plain shelves that display simple copper pots. At this point, you have a choice: would you prefer to pop into the former to buy a $400 dress, or the latter for a $95 seafood platter?

    The trompe l’oeil décor at Patricia Field’s boutique and Daniel Boulud’s DBGB restaurant, both established on the Bowery in the last five years, aren’t looking to fool you, necessarily, into thinking you’re several blocks further downtown, past the boundary of Bowery gentrification. Rather, they’re paying tribute to the history of the neighborhood.

    “We weren’t looking at being kitsch and really trying to make this look exactly like a kitchen-supply house,” said Thomas Schlesser, the award-winning interior designer responsible for the cookware-lined interior of DBGB. “It’s more a matter of trying to capture the spirit of what a kitchen-supply house was about, and really celebrate that in the formal geometries of the restaurant.”

    DBGB’s décor — and that of a number of other area businesses making similar design choices — represents an homage, then, to what the Lower East Side and East Village once were. Similarly, the John Varvatos store in the space formerly owned by CBGB, which has kept some of the graffiti from the rock club’s interior intact, is just offering its respects. “It’s something that I’ve noticed that’s existed for a while — there was just never a term that summarized the phenomenon,” said Lower East Side resident Elie Perler, who runs the neighborhood blog Bowery Boogie.
    Mr. Perler might try “authentrification.” These businesses are doing more than just gentrifying the neighborhood: in their quest for authenticity, they’re seizing on elements that represent the area’s past and repurposing them as a design scheme. The tendency of new East Village businesses toward authentrification is less than popular among Mr. Perler and fellow observers of the neighborhood, who view the phenomenon as insincere.

    The East Village resident who keeps the popular blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, and goes by the name Jeremiah Moss, sees it as something of a class issue. “You can think about it as imperialistic, this sort of, like, ‘We’re going to come in and we’re going to take over, but we’re going to decorate our spaces with totems of the culture we just destroyed,’” he said. “It’s sort of like, ‘We came, we saw, we conquered, and now we own this stuff.’”

    Those who actually do own this stuff don’t see it quite that way; their intentions, they insist, are genuinely good. For Mr. Schlesser, the decision to decorate DBGB to look like a kitchen-supply house was a careful one. “We were very conscious of wanting to have a project that really fit with the neighborhood, and didn’t come in and announce itself or create an environment that was out of character with what you might have expected there before the gentrification really started to kick in,” he said.

    Jeff Goldstein, the owner-operator of the Blue & Cream boutique at Bowery and East 1st Street (the second location of a store he originally established in the Hamptons in 2004), even goes as far as to praise his competitor. “John Varvatos is the best thing that could have happened to CBGB’s. CBGB’s was going to close, anyway. It was over.”

    Mr. Goldstein chalks up CBGB’s closing to the unpleasant financial reality of a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood. “At least you’ve got a guy who preserved some of it… I’d rather the soul of it not be gone [than] there be, like, a Duane Reade there,” he says. “That’d be horrible!”

    An anonymous East Village blogger (and twenty-year resident), who goes by the name EV Grieve, disagrees. “Something about it is kind of unsettling to me; I find it kind of ghoulish,” says Mr. Grieve of the efforts made by the John Varvatos boutique to preserve the spirit of CBGB. “In a somewhat strange way, God forbid, I’d almost rather have it turned into a yogurt store, or something completely different.”

    Authentrification is not limited to the East Village. You can find it in Soho, where Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakery chose to maintain the old façade from Vesuvio, the beloved 89-year-old bakery it replaced. You can find it on the Upper West Side, where an Urban Outfitters opened last summer with four distinct storefronts meant to evoke a hat store, a hardware store, a neighborhood bar, and a bodega — the exact kinds of businesses that chain stores like Urban Outfitters are pricing out of existence. You can even find it in the outer boroughs, at least on TV: an episode of 30 Rock found its protagonist, Liz Lemon, asking her friend why a hip Brooklyn boutique was peppered with decorative straitjackets. “Because before this was a clothing store, it was a mental hospital,” Liz’s friend replied. “It’s winky and fun.”

    Still, the East Village does seem to boast the highest rate of authentrification per block. The peculiar history of the Bowery, and the area immediately surrounding it, makes it uniquely suited to this kind of treatment. Those who would hearken back to a “real New York” won’t find a place much more “real” than the Bowery: its Gilded Age brothels and disreputable bars, its mid-century identity as New York’s Skid Row; its place in history as the exact spot where the punk movement was born.

    Jeff Goldstein is particularly interested in the last of these eras — what the Bowery represented in the 1970s and ’80s. His Bowery boutique doubles as an art gallery: Mr. Goldstein has arranged for a permanent exhibition of photos, taken by the legendary nightlife photographer Patrick McMullan between 1978 and 1985, to grace the walls of his store. “I have this incredible photo. It’s called City in Disrepair, from Patrick McMullan, which is, you know, a huge square block… just destroyed, like, late ’70s: rubble, with a car on fire, and the garbage cans. And just what New York was — this city in disrepair,” he said.

    “And I fully romanticize that, as a New Yorker,” Mr. Goldstein admitted. The photo reminds him of skateboarding in the city, at age eleven or twelve. “This is something that we want to kind of hold onto.”

    Blue & Cream, John Varvatos, Patricia Field’s, and DBGB are all located on a two-block stretch of the Bowery, between Houston and Bleecker streets. But cast your net a little further and you’ll find more: Beauty and Essex, a restaurant that also houses a pawn shop; Rag & Bone, a high-end clothing store whose Houston Street outpost replaced Café Colonial, an East Village fixture, last July. On its Elizabeth Street wall, Rag & Bone posted a note: “Rag & Bone bids farewell to Café Colonial, a neighborhood landmark.”

    “That note really struck me as patronizing; it really, truly did,” Mr. Grieve said. “In some ways it’s better not to say anything, rather than to constantly remind people what was there.”
    The wall that housed the note was immediately tagged by a graffiti artist, who wrote “YOU WOULD” in capital letters underneath. Other taggers followed suit. In September, the store’s owners and manager gave up repainting over the graffiti and decided to hold a public contest for local artists to create a mural to replace the sign. Artist Josh Villatoro won, with a design featuring a stylishly dressed woman emerging from an egg. His mural has since been replaced, though you can still make out bits and pieces of what came before.

    “Rag & Bone, that’s from a line that’s from a Yeats poem,” Mr. Moss remarked. “The line is, ‘The foul rag and bone shop of the heart.’ Which, it kind of sounds like the old Bowery, right?”
    He took a moment to look up the poem, Yeats’ “The Circus Animals’ Desertion,” and read a few lines aloud.

    A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
    Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
    Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
    Who keeps the till…

    “So it’s sort of almost like, again, taking something of the poor, of the downtrodden, the rags and the bones, and using it to sell something very expensive,” Mr. Moss said.

    Rag & Bone store manager Kamika Yankov said the response she witnessed to the original tribute was a largely positive one. “Even people that didn’t want to shop in here, did just pop their heads in and be like, ‘Hey, we really appreciate the sign,’” she said. No one complained — at least not to her face. “I think most of the negative comments were left online,” she said with a laugh.

    But even critics of the original sign seem to appreciate the new approach, which some residents see as a gesture that is more legitimately connected to the neighborhood. “It’s a good idea,” Mr. Perler said. “Because they’re looking into the community for to have input into what they’re doing. They could have just as easily put up some stupid whatever, and it would have meant nothing. But because they brought in some unheard-of artist to do this thing, it’s kind of cool.”

    No one who has a vested interest in the authentrification of the East Village and Lower East Side — either its defenders or its detractors — is naďve about the way New York neighborhoods work. “Change in neighborhoods is inevitable, and New York, of all cities, is predicated on the dynamics of change that come and go through various neighborhoods,” Mr. Schlesser, the DBGB designer, said.

    “Change is inevitable, you know, things come and go,” Mr. Perler echoed.

    “John F. Kennedy said ‘Change is good, change is good, and we can’t fight it,’” Mr. Goldstein said. “Sometimes I want to feel like the comfy blanket of how things used to be, but everything in New York has changed, and we’re not going to be able to stop it. So what we’re doing here is kind of plant the flag, tell our story, and be true to ourselves as much as possible.” He paused. “I didn’t mean to make that sound like a speech.”

  13. #13
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Bowery Lands on State Register of Historic Places

    By Patrick Hedlund

    The east side of the Bowery, at the corner of Rivington Street.
    (Bowery Alliance of Neighbors/David Mulkins)

    MANHATTAN — It's gone from seedy skid row to historic treasure.

    Preservation efforts on the Bowery got a boost this week with the ancient roadway's inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places.

    The designation sets the stage for the thoroughfare’s recognition in the National Register of Historic Places, which affords building owners tax breaks and grants for preserving properties.

    But unlike the city's historic districts, designation on the state or national register does not protect buildings from alteration along the strip, which runs from Cooper Square south to Worth Street.
    The move comes amid continued calls by local neighborhood groups to landmark more historic buildings on the Bowery, as well as establish height caps on the road's eastern flank to prevent large-scale development. Portions of Bowery's western side are already protected by the Special LIttle Italy and NoHo Historic Districts.

    “The Bowery nomination is unique — it not only recognizes the architecture and cultural history of the street, but it acknowledges the earliest planning history of New York,” said historian Kerri Culhane, who wrote the Bowery’s 171-page nomination, in a statement.

    “By extension, the Bowery nomination should be used as a planning tool to help guide better planning, zoning and contextual infill on this vibrant and dynamic thoroughfare, which continues to make history today.”

    The Bowery dates back to Dutch times and has a long history as an entertainment district that eventually gave way to flophouses and street dwellers before undergoing a renaissance in recent years.
    The famed roadway is considered the birthplace of tap dance and housed the Yiddish Theater's first American venue, historians have noted.

    It also hosted the first stage adaptation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," early vaudeville shows, as well as performers ranging from a young Irving Berlin to punk rockers The Ramones.
    In addition, artists like painter Mark Rothko and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe have called the Bowery home through the years.

    The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, which sponsored the designation, have long advocated for more preservation efforts in the former entertainment district, losing a fight to prevent demolition of the nearly two-century-old building at 35 Cooper Square, as well an attempt to landmark the 1817 rowhouse at 135 Bowery.

    The groups noted that more than 10 percent of the street’s current buildings, which are “out of scale and character with the historically low-rise Bowery,” were constructed in the last decade.

    “It’s hard to believe that a case had to be made for the significance of one of our most historic streets and all of the folklore that surrounds it,” said Two Bridges president Victor Papa.

    “This isn’t just Lower East Side history — this is national history. It is now undeniably clear that the Bowery plays a central role in the canon of American history.”

    The Bowery’s designation in the State Register will be forwarded to the National Register, which is maintained by the National Park Service and seeks to protect and preserve significant American landmarks.

  14. #14


    From Skid Row to celebrity hangout — the Bowery cashes in

    Gritty feel — but not too much of it — remains as developers and stars flock to former national symbol of urban blight.

    By Jason Sheftell / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
    Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 6:10 PM
    Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 3:41 PM


    Zach Vella's new condo at 250 Bowery is leading a residential revival of the Bowery, where Paul Simon and Scarlett Johansson have looked at apartments.

    The drunks are still there — only now they drive Bentleys, wear Prada and date supermodels.
    The Bowery — once a national symbol of urban blight — is now one of the hottest residential, retail and nightlife neighborhoods.

    The design at 250 Bowery is lofty and bright.

    "This is not the Bowery of 20 years ago when we ... stepped over the homeless," said broker John Gomes, who is handling sales for Douglas Elliman at 250 Bowery, a new condo being developed by Zach Vella with partner Justin Ehrlich.
    The boutique builder’s stamp is all over the building — and 22 of 28 units sold in just one month, with prices from $925,000 for a one-bedroom to a hair under $6 million for a penthouse. The loft-like project is attracting the likes of Scarlett Johansson and singer Paul Simon, and will house an upscale Anthropologie shop in the ground floor.

    There's plenty of room inside the kitchen and dining area of the apartments at 250 Bowery.

    The building is part of a radical transformation of New York’s infamous Skid Row, which began nearby with the Bowery Bar and Bowery Hotel and then moved below Houston Street with the opening of the New Museum in 2007.

    A bright state-of-the-art bathroom at 250 Bowery.

    "The people who want to live here are young, chic and wealthy. They go out at night and they all love this neighborhood,” said Gomes who works with business partner Fredrik Eklund, a star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing New York." “We had almost 1,000 people on a waiting list."

    MAGNIFICENT: The rooftop view from 250 Bowery allows for a look at all of New York's skyscrapers.

    One of the hot new restaurants is The General at 199 Bowery, where “Top Chef” season 3 winner Hung Huynh is behind the stove, and the dining room is packed with scene makers.
    "We liked being way ahead of the curve here," said co-owner Eugene Remm. "This is a location destination, meaning once the crowd gets here, they stay."
    Craig Warga/New York Daily News

    The General, at 199 Bowery, has become a fancy canteen for the new Bowery.

    Vella thinks the area is becoming more popular because, like SoHo and Dumbo before it, the Bowery a still has its old feel — just not too much of it.
    "It has grit — and artsy people with good taste aren’t afraid of that," Vella said. "I'm surprised at the prices we're getting, but people want good design and this neighborhood will always have a history all of its own."
    One of early Manhattan's most vital thoroughfares, the Bowery took a turn for the worse after the Civil War when flophouses, brothels, bars, and penny theaters took over the streets. Composer Stephen Foster died in poverty in a Bowery hotel. Theodore Drieser’s novel, "Sister Carrie," ends with a suicide on the street. The Bowery Mission, still active, has helped the area's homeless since 1880.
    And the more things change, the more other things stay the same. Next door to 250 Bowery, Bari Equipment remains a neighborhood stalwart.
    Steve Granitz/WireImage

    Broker John Gomes said people who want to live in the Bowery are young, chic and wealthy, like actress Scarlett Johansson, who has checked out the apartments at 250 Bowery.

    In the 1960s, Bari sold a pizza parlor kit with ovens, dough retarder, mixer, and refrigerator for $1,500. The same package sells for $40,000 today.
    "We're not going anywhere, ever," said Nick Bari, whose grandfather started the company and, wisely, bought the building in 1976.
    CHEERS: This is the way many older New Yorkers remember the Bowery.

    But he does acknowledge the neighborhood will change around him.
    "People got over that old Bowery stigma real quick,” Bari said. “Just look at the prices they’re getting for apartments now. It's not the same street anymore and there's nothing wrong with that. Restaurants are packed at 1 a.m."
    Getty Images

    For years The Bowery was associated with the homeless, who slept on the sidewalks and doorways.

    One broker is so convinced that he bought an apartment in 250 Bowery — and is ramping up the enthusiasm to the point of hyperbole.
    New York Daily News

    Mayor to the rescue: With mercury plunging toward zero in a sudden cold wave, Mayor LaGuardia cut red tape to relieve suffering among the city's homeless. Here, a group of homeless are being fed at 225 Bowery, one of the city's coffee depots.

    "The Bowery could be the Park Ave. of downtown someday," said Oren Alexander, 25, of Douglas Elliman.
    Still, the newcomers and changes are welcome by the old institutions.
    “We’ve been watching gentrification for a long time now and we’re committed to staying on the Bowery,” said James Winans, chief development officer for the Bowery Mission. “Our clientele knows that’s where to find us and the need for what we do has not diminished. Besides, our new neighbors have been very generous with time and money. The General staff has cooked and served meals to the homeless in our kitchen.”

    Read more:

  15. #15
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    My wallet hurts.....

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