A recent walk down the Bowery had me gawking at the perilous-looking, piled-block, mesh-covered construction of the New Museum of Contemporary Art. It reminds me of a kid's Halloween-costume version of a robot, all clunky foil-covered boxes. Squeezing in between the Sunshine Hotel flophouse, kitchen supply shops, and a homeless shelter, this building is another big-shouldered intruder into the once-filthy Bowery, now a playground for the filthy rich.
I guess they think I'm one of them because they just sent me a fund-raising package asking to send them $1,000 so I can join Bowery Bash, the "glamorous, pre-opening party celebrating downtown and the arts."
This map from New York mag is already out of date, but it shows how complete the transformation of the Bowery has been. For anyone who still believes that the changes here are gradual and natural, take another look. They are driven, they are targeted, and they are relentless.
sunshine in the shadow
What will become of the last remaining flophouses and the men who flop there? Bigger Apple explored that question back in 2004 when the owner of the Sunshine Hotel told the Times that, though he couldn't stand the stink, he would not sell the building and evict its remaining homeless residents. Soon after, City Limits reported that he began offering the men money to leave, a couple hundred bucks according to one resident, barely enough to survive for a week. And this was all three years ago when the giant museum was still a design on paper.
The squalor that once protected neighborhoods like the Bowery from total destruction no longer scares away the affluent and ambitious, who must be well-practiced in the art of denial and turning a blind eye, or else they turn squalor and misfortune into art installations. The museum might be covered in mesh, but its patrons will be sheathed in Teflon. At least until the Sunshine and the rest of the old Bowery can be swept away.
- The swank Bowery Hotel charges $450 per night. Quips the Times, "So what if you might have to step over a few vestigial bums to get there?"
- ForgottenNY takes a walk up the Bowery.
- Listen to a sound portrait of the men of the Sunshine Hotel.
- Take a look at Sammy's Bowery Follies.
a starbucks may be coming to this corner