Thursday, March 26, 2009

Main Street NYC: The Bowery, Manhattan

Main Street NYC: The Bowery, Manhattan-By Brigid Bergin March 20, 2009
"WNYC’s Brigid Bergin takes us to a five-block stretch of the Bowery, from Houston to Delancey streets. The street is still home some century-old institutions like the Bowery Mission and specialized retail districts for restaurant supplies. But in recent years, an influx of new businesses along with cultural destinations are reshaping the neighborhood’s economy and streetscape....

REPORTER: ... the plan is to build an an 8-story, 72-room luxury green hotel. the site is fenced off with blue plywood, and there's no sign of construction going on here.

...A week before the opening, WNYC spoke executive director Lisa Phillips about the Museum's role in gentrifying the neighborhood.

PHILLIPS: Well we expected there would be changes in the neighborhood. But we didn't expect it would happen so fast. And we thougt we'd kind of be alone for a while...."

K Webster's post to the site:

The Bowery is a big place. An astonishing neighborhood of complex communities and interests: SRO tenants, families in tenements, artists in lofts, kitchen suppliers, lighting stores, missions to those in need, gardeners, theaters, and cultural institutions. Asian American Arts Center, Bowery Poetry Club, Bowery Mission, Liz Christy Garden, Dixon Place, CBGB’s, Amato Opera, and many more are/were institutions in this still gritty part of town.
Some try to redefine The Bowery by their arrival here. You might want to dig just a bit deeper for the full story. The New Museum plasters its logo up and down the street (even in front of local art institutions). It paves over the remains of an African Burial ground in its rush to be built. As for being surprised at the gentrification that followed its arrival, I quote a museum official (NYTimes 3/28/07: “once the new building opens, it will change the complexion of the Lower East Side”. Ms. Phillips wasn’t ever “alone” there were many arts institutions long before hers showed up. The “Green” hotel that purports to showcase living “green”? The small business next door had to be evacuated after the “green” demolition of a perfectly fine building to make way for the new hotel. (BTW: that is why it hasn’t been built – still sorting that out!). The Bowery’s Liz Christy garden, the grandmother of East Village Gardens, has been a fine showcase on living green over the past 20 years. The Bowery suppliers who own the SunShine Hotel? They had to be taken to court to protect the rights of their SRO tenants to stay in their homes of the last three decades or so.
What is slowly fading with the new onslaught is the delightful, irreverent cacophony of a working community that grows by that indefinable magic of people creating a place for their neighborhood and neighbors. You can’t fake that and you can’t create it by following “market” trends. Hence the collapse of such failed strategies writ large on the national and international front.
There is hope however. I noticed the relocation of a local lumber store on our illustrious street. A return to something real?