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The Battle for the Bowery – Grit vs. Glamour

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135 Bowery. Photo by Robert K. Chin.

A battle for 135 Bowery has focused new attention on the broader struggle to protect the Bowery from over-development.  Yesterday, the New York Times filed a substantial piece on the subject, noting that the state is expected, in a matter of days, to announce its support for adding the thoroughfare to the National Register of Historic Places.

The report does not break any new ground. But it does give preservationists a PR boost, as they shake off last month’s setback in the City Council, where the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to protect 135 Bowery was overturned.  Now two groups – the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council – are pinning their hopes on the largely symbolic National Register application. They’re also focusing on a fairly limited application submitted to the LPC. Reporter Joseph Berger writes:

The Bowery’s rapid transformation is behind a crusade to preserve what is left of its timeworn, low-rise landscape and something of its personality, the grit as well as the glitter… Preservationists have identified two pristine blocks and have asked the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to label them historic districts, a request the commission is considering. Such a designation would mean that proposed alterations to the streetscape could be slowed or halted by official reviews.

The west side of the Bowery is already located in an historic district, however the city has resisted extending the protections to the east side of the street. As the Times article notes, not everyone believes the Bowery’s buildings are worth saving:

Many New Yorkers… believe that the street is fated to change with the increasing demands for conveniently located Manhattan apartments, shops and offices, particularly in a neighborhood where hipsters and young professionals outnumber vagrants. “Not all in this neighborhood are looking to preserve the past,” said Arun Bhati, a developer who owns a vacant lot at 35 Cooper Square, where an 1825 Federal house built by a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant was torn down this year, despite protests from preservationists. “Cities need to grow and make some changes to be relevant.”

You can read the complete article here.


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  1. The only part of the west side of the Bowery located within a Historic District is the stretch running north of Houston up to East 7th Street, and that full length on the west side is not completely protected.  None of the Bowery between Houston and Canal, on both the east and west sides of the street, is located within a Historic District and is therefore open for demolition.  Protections are needed for these properties.

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