While watching Kevin Frech's documentary Bowery Dish, I was excited to see the following shot of 38 East 4th Street, the former tenement that stood next to Bowery Bar:
For years, I've been trying to find a photo of this window--and to find out who was behind the signs, a question that remains unanswered.
In addition to "Cooper Union: How could you do this to our neighborhood," there was also a box sign with a red blinking light inside of it. You can just barely see it in the lower left of the window here. I don't remember what it said.
A little history:
When nightclub developers Eric Goode and Serge Becker opened the "grit-to-glam" celebrity hangout Bowery Bar on the site of an old gas station in 1994, the locals got restless. The Times reported that many members of the neighborhood association and community board argued “that the bar, and others they believe would open in its wake, will erode the character of the area by changing it from a haven for light industry and artists into a trendy night spot."
That year, the New Yorker reported on "a curiously medieval sight" outside Bowery Bar, when "a small crowd of Bowery denizens were peering over the courtyard wall, like serfs at the castle gates." New York magazine called the scene “an exercise in extreme cultural dissonance, evoking images of Calvin Klein and Linda Evangelista sipping Cristal on the inside as derelicts guzzle Night Train on the outside.”
the cultural dissonance continues today
In 1995 a group of artists, purportedly led by bicycle activist George Bliss, painted a trail of footprints leading to the bar, marked with slogans like "Boycott the Bowery Bar" and "Don't Party on the Poor." Bliss and other detractors argued that the bar was operating without a zoning variance, doing business on land zoned for light manufacturing, an environment conducive to artists. In the Times, Goode responded, "We're manufacturing. We're manufacturing hamburgers."
At some point, in the tenement window next to the luxe lounge’s entrance, a protesting neighbor put up the “Cooper Union, how could you do this to us?" sign. (It was the college that owned the land and had granted the lease to Bowery Bar.) The sign lasted a long while, providing a constant protest that could not go unseen by Bowery Bar and its customers.
But by 2007, Goode and his new partner, Sean MacPherson, would take over the protestor's tenement, call it a brownstone, and turn it into the monied hipster hotel Lafayette House.
I don’t know what became of the protester and the angry sign--or to anyone else who lived in that building. (Does anyone know?) The window where the signs once hung is now the doorway into Bowery Bar's exclusive hotel.