remains in a
it’s a great
check it out.
When I moved to New York City seven years ago,
the Bowery was a place you happened upon. You
picked up your pace to walk across it as quickly as
possible, mainly to get between two of Manhattan’s
trendiest places: the Lower East Side and Nolita.
The neighborhood centers on a massive four-lane
thoroughfare that always felt especially cruel on
blustery late-night walks across town, when the
number of newspapers and empty beer bottles on
the sidewalk outnumbered pedestrians. And long
before I came to New York, the Bowery was notorious as Manhattan’s skid row, home to flophouses,
abandoned storefronts and the legendary punk
rock dive CBGB. In fact, for decades, the Bowery
has been one of the few constants in a relentlessly
evolving city, a dependably desolate stretch of
downtown Manhattan—until now.
Suddenly, the Bowery has gone from shabby to
chic, almost to the vexation of New Yorkers who
have come to count on its edginess as a reminder
;;;;;;;;;;;;;;.;;; • January/February 2011 • ;rrıve 47
of a rougher, more authentic New York. Preser-vationists are concerned about certain changes,
worried that the neighborhood’s working-class
residents are being pushed out and that historic
buildings are being torn down to make way for luxury condos. For now, the Bowery remains in a gentrifying limbo, both fashionable and grungy, which
is exactly why it’s a great time to check it out.
The last time I walked the Bowery, I didn’t cut
across like I used to. Instead, I strolled the length
of it, about 14 blocks from Cooper Square in the
East Village to Canal Street in Chinatown, and
discovered a vibrant neighborhood. Boutiques by
fashion labels such as Rogan and John Varvatos
looked lavish next to the Bowery Mission, where
people were gathered outside waiting for a meal.
Heavily tattooed bohemians sipped locally roasted
fair-trade co;ee at Think Co;ee, and professionals
were crowding into the neighborhood’s boisterous
new restaurants. The Bowery Poetry Club & Café,
which hosts weekly poetry slams, was closed for a