The Fight to Preserve The Bowery

Luxury NY Rentals - Bowery Listings“The Bowery! The Bowery! They say such things and they do strange things,” began an 1891 song. But what was once known as Skid Row, full of vagrants and artists alike, has over the past few years continued on a path toward full gentrification. Much has changed from the days of towering bank headquarters and performances by Vaudevillian legends. Progress, to be sure, always brings about change. But while many of the residents of luxury rentals in the Bowery see innovation as being productive, they are also fighting to keep the flavor of this iconic neighborhood’s past intact.

The Bowery snakes through Chinatown, Little Italy, NoLIta, SoHo and the East Village, a conglomeration of some of NYC’s most historically significant neighborhoods. It got its name from the Dutch word for farm because it connected what was originally a small grouping of houses in the tip of Manhattan to the farms that once existed further uptown. Towards the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th, The Bowery served as both a cultural center as well as a place famous for helping the poor. Because of its storied past, many luxury apartment residents, including the organizations called Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, are petitioning the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to officially recognize the area as an historic district. Explains Kerri Culhane, an architectural historian who has taken the lead on this project, “Everything that happened on The Bowery parallels New York history.” This is a sentiment shared by many in the neighborhood, who are attempting to temper the new trend of modern glass and steel towers, swank hotels and even such chains as Whole Foods from “taking over” the district. To be sure, this is not a cry against modernity; quite the contrary. The proposal aims to provide tax credits, both at the state and federal levels, for those who choose to develop in The Bowery without completely altering its old world aesthetic, which includes buildings from every decade dating back to the American Revolution.

But everyone is not on board with this new movement. In fact, developer Arun Bhati, who owns a vacant lot that was formerly occupied by an 1825 Federal house and what he hopes will one day be a luxury real estate property, disagrees with this sentiment. In his own words, “Cities need to grow and make some changes to be relevant.” Perhaps these differing views have been the reason for much of the aforementioned organizations’ failures, who have been unsuccessful in preserving a variety of historic buildings as landmarks. However, it would appear that the entire neighborhood will not change. In fact, the majority of the new developments are on the Bowery’s east side, since the street’s west side has already been successfully demarcated as historic districts, including Little Italy. Though the fate of the Bowery is uncertain, we can be sure that its NYC rental residents will continue to remain steadfast in their mission to preserve it against the all encompassing gentrification that threatens its historic atmosphere. They are not fighting against new development of luxury rental apartments, but are simply hoping to remind people of the Bowery’s past description: “The Bowery! The Bowery! They say such things and they do strange things.”