The Bowery

Welcome to The Bowery

Rivington Street and Bowery

All of the pictures below are taken between Houston and Delancey Streets on the Bowery

The Bowery is a wide arterial road that stretches from Cooper Square in the north to Chatham Square in the south. In the 19th century, it was called the “working class Broadway” because of its famous saloons, haberdasheries, street vendors, and its proximity to the Five Points neighborhood. 

For the last few decades, the Bowery has been known for its numerous restaurant supply stores, its punk bars and clubs, and of course… gentrification. Because of rising rents, the punk bars have all but disappeared and the restaurant supply stores are vanishing quickly too. Below are photos of what’s left, as well as some juxtapositions of the old and new.

This is a very telling picture. From left to right we have a restaurant equipment store, Cooking Ideal, which has gone out of business and the space is up for rent. Then we have a Wells Fargo bank, which has replaced the old shop Sunrise Rainbow Kitchen and Hardware Supplies. And lastly we have another supply store, this one is yet to go under, and another vacant storefront on the corner.

High rent blight is the term used to describe streets that are primarily filled with vacant storefronts or monotonous chains. But the emptiness of the streetscape is not because businesses don’t want to set up shop there, rather it is because the rent is so damn high that very few businesses are willing or able to pay to be there. The ultimate example of high rent blight in New York is Bleeker Street in the West Village.

Two more old-timey restaurant supply stores.

A hodgepodge of luxury development clamours over a couple of old Bowery tenements. One of the supply stores remains, the other has been converted into an art gallery.

An upscale wine bar has replaced M. Levin Inc. – Showcases, a woodworking and metalworking store that built custom display cabinets, since 1901.

Again we have here two vacant storefronts and a new mezze restaurant. These three storefronts used to be occupied by one giant supply store called Bari. The original Bari supply building is still in business on the Bowery, but many of its extensions, such as this one, have been replaced.

Here is the original Bari building.

Plantshed, the dual purpose upscale cafe-and-plant-shop has replaced another one of Bari’s extensions. An offshoot of Bari that sold houseware and home cooking supplies, rather than restaurant supplies, used to occupy that space.

Another old supply shop next to a sleek black new condo.

Same situation here just a block south.

About twenty years ago all of the buildings in the above picture, except for the large old bank on the far left, would have been two-to-three story tenements like the ones seen in the middle-right.

Obviously, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t ever be new construction or that the buildings and shops of New York shouldn’t change. I don’t think anyone is against change in the abstract, and I’m certainly not. But the argument is not as simple as just whether or not things should change. The argument is about for whom is that change? It is about figuring out what types of neighborhoods and communities we want to build. And it’s about whose history we are remembering and whose we are demolishing. Those are the arguments we should be having when we demolish a Bowery tenement from 1836 to build a ten story glass condo.

Another old Bowery supply store in the shadow of a twenty-two story luxury hotel. It replaced a couple of old tenements and supply stores.

This six-story stone savings bank was the home of Jay Maisel, a well known New York photographer and collector. He bought this entire building in 1967 for around $60,000 and over the course of almost five decades turned into his personal museum. The building was a massive repository of everything from broken machine parts, different colored cardboard, glass bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors, multitudes of fabrics, countless utensils – if you can name it, it was in that building.

Recently, however, mostly due to old age, he sold the building for $55 million and then moved to Brooklyn. The building is now office space on the upper floors and a Supreme clothing store on the first floor. This secret gem of the old New York, Jay Maisel’s bank-house-mausoleum has too come to pass.

Below are just a few more supply stores that have been replaced by art galleries and boutiques.

The Bowery Mission is one of the last homeless shelters and soup kitchens that remains on the Bowery. I’m not certain, but I think it is likely that they own both of their buildings. So they are probably going to stick around for a while, serving the homeless, giving out free meals and providing cheap shelter in the luxury city.

Bowery and Delancey Street