"The New Bohemia: It's East of Soho and Still Unspoiled" by John Pareles
This article isn't Bowery-centric, but I think its notable in terms of how the view of things happening below East Houston (or even the amount of things), shifted in the late 90's.
"For the current Ludlow Street scene, it was a mid-1990's police crackdown curtailing major drug sales that let the neighborhood kick into high gear." (maybe that explains why, when I came back from graduate school in 1997, things seemed to have changed radically even though I was only gone for a year.)
"It's not entirely sanitized; visitors might glimpse drug transactions on Stanton Street or Rivington Street. But the area is in the promising part of a pattern that's familiar from SoHo and the East Village: the transition from rundown neighborhood to artists' hangout to hip destination to overload." (I think we've hit overload++)
Looks like this started all the way back in 1996:
"Bars, clubs and small performance spaces have proliferated during the 1990's, so much so that last year, Community Board 3 called for a moratorium on new liquor licenses along Ludlow Street. But activity has hardly tapered off."
And geez, does anyone remember that cabaret law Giuliani pulled out of his pocket? "In line with the city's enforcement of the cabaret laws, places like Bob have signs posted that say, ''No dancing by order of the Department of Consumer Affairs.'' "
Also, I think its worth noting that in nearly every one of these articles I've posted so far, Starbucks has been mentioned in a negative way as a gentrifying force (this is pre Duane Reade and Banks)