Thursday, December 30, 2010

mrnyc's annotated walk down the Bowery circa 2008

"An annotated walk down the bowery in lower manhattan (long) - part 1"
is from the Urban Ohio forum.  Stumbled upon this last night - seems like a bit of a walk back in time....

Lots of information and some pictures, including some from when the "Outsiders" show was up on the corner of Bowery and Houston.  See this earlier post for details.  That space is now a fancy restaurant. 

pictures by mrnyc

(Photo: Ian Cox/Lazarides Gallery)

Skidmore House and 2 Cooper Sq

I recently realized I've gotten a bit off track lately....diving in to maps and history is just so tempting but now that I'm looking at less than a week to put together a collage I've realized I need to focus more on the present and recent past.  I think its also easy for the mind to stray when you are not physically in the city....once you are back and pounding the pavement commences the urgency to address today's issues returns.

So let us return to current issues.

37 East 4th Street was vacant for as long as I can remember.   We always thought it'd be a super place to live.  It had this great little curved edition building on the back that was so cute.

This NY Times article from 2004 explains what happened.  It also states "In the longer term, the Atlantic Development Group has leased the Skidmore House and an adjacent property at the corner of the Bowery from the Goldman estate. It plans to restore the landmark as part of a larger project."

Fast forward to now and both the Samuel Tredwell Skidmore House and its much larger neighbor 2 Cooper Square are ready for occupancy.

I always thought the architects of 2 Cooper must have been inspired by some of the Skidmore House stylings, especially the back garden "tea house" (as its called in this Curbed article about the house).

Picture of the Skidmore House from 2004 via the NY Times/Dan Hogan Charles 
Also, here is a 1987 article from the NY Times explaining what happened to the buildings in the middle.

Here are some pictures I took from early 2008 of the Skidmore House looking from the Bowery.

A November 2010 NY Times article gives more info about the renovations, and a picture of the building next to 2 Cooper Square. Chester Higgins Jr./NYTimes

From the Wired New York forum - posted by Derek2k3

I found this too and can't resist posting it: from New York Magazine April 30, 1973 via Google Books

And lastly.....this PDF from confirms that those big round things they buried in the lots between 29 and 37 East 4th Street (pictured above) were for the 3rd water tunnel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eldridge Street time lapse

A diversion from The Bowery but related in some respects.......I just looked up the Delancey Farm and found this really excellent time lapse animation (I remember seeing it awhile ago but forgot about it, though I think its gotten more extensive since then).

Here is the sped up version of "The Block" by Zach van Schouwen. Click here for the web site version where you can vary the speed.

Its fascinating that in the late 70's almost all of the tenements disappear, since if Robert Moses had his way they would have anyway in the 50's.   I bet the Rivington School artists used this space frequently, though I seem to remember hearing that there was some sort of zen garden type art piece there in the 80's and its driving me crazy that I can't find a link.....(ok, found it.  It was on the other side of the street from this animation.  Adam Purple's Garden of Eden must have been beautiful in an otherwise burnt out LES.) 

Adam Purple's Garden of Eden

Monday, December 27, 2010

Birdseye views - Google earth vs. 1879 Library of Congress map

While debating the other day how panoramic maps were made, and the idea was brought up that cameras were used in balloons, and drawings made from the pictures.  A Wikipedia article on pictorial maps has this to say "Edwin Whitefield for instance, one of the more prolific 19th century American pictorial map artists, would require about 200 subscribers before he put pen to paper. Once he secured the profitability of the venture, Whitefield would be seen all over town furiously sketching every building. Then, choosing an imaginary aerial vantage point, he would integrate all his sketches into a complete and detailed drawing of the city. Then after that, say the chroniclers of the time, Whitefield would once again be seen furiously darting all over town to collect from all his sponsors. Says Jean-Louis Rheault, a contemporary pictorial map illustrator: 'Pictorial maps - with their emphasis on what's important and eye-catching - make it easier to figure out what's where.'.[2]"

Full map at the Library of Congress can be found here. 

Forgotten NY Bowery page + 190 Bowery

Learn some more about the history of some of the buildings still standing on the Bowery here, at the Forgotten NY website.

While scrolling though its contents I was reminded of the mystery that is (was) 190 Bowery.

I had the pleasure of getting a tour of 190 Bowery along with a group of Cooper Union students  (photographer Jay Maisel's studio/home) in the early 2000's. We saw his studio/office spaces, which were still fairly intact in terms of what the place was like when it was a bank (the vault in the basement, large conference room with big wooden table, the wooden stairs up to the offices, the mosaic bank lobby floor). A large portion of the second floor was a gallery space for his work, and some shooting studios. I remember in the early 90's we used to walk from the LES to the fleamarket at Grand + Broadway on weekends, and speculate what was going on in that building. It was amazing to go inside, but sad in some ways because all the mystery has been removed from it for me.

For better or worse, I will now demystify it for you (not that its hard at all to find info about it these days).  Here is a NYMag article and slideshow from 2008.

Photo: Leigh Davis via

The last surviving Federal-style row house on Bowery

This entry about 206 Bowery on the Place Matters website tells us all about this building and some of the surrounding buildings. "This is not only the last Federal Row House style building left in this storied area, it is one of the few remaining in all of downtown Manhattan."

Photo by Sally Young via Place Matters

Art about the Bowery + "The Last Days of Loserville"

I had planned on talking about East 2nd Street for a bit, and digging up more pictures of the Liz Christy garden, but yesterday's snowstorm is keeping me from getting back to the city so I can access my negatives.  In the meantime I've been digging thought the Village Voice, which, not surprisingly, holds a different blend of information covering some of the same events in articles I posted from the Times.

Mid 2000's......there is an article titled "The Last Days of Loserville", which, while covering the standard history of the Bowery, also frankly talks about why it should be saved as is, or not.   Also mentioned are a few art projects created a the time to help remember the Bowery as it was/is:


Place Matters has an interesting interactive Bowery map here.   Their organization states "Places connect us to the past, host community and cultural traditions, and keep local environments distinctive. City Lore and the Municipal Art Society founded the Place Matters project in 1998 to identify, promote, and protect such places in New York City."


The folks at Glowlab did a project for the The New Museum's "Counter Culture" show (before it's Bowery building was built). "Brooklyn artists Dave Mandl and Christina Ray ( are currently creating a psychogeographic portrait of a single Bowery block."  Unfortunately the web site does not work, but gives a bit of a description here.
  • Counter Culture ran from 7/10/04 - 8/14/04 and explored "the commerce and cultural diversity of the neighborhoods surrounding the Bowery-the future home of the New Museum-by pairing each of the six artists with a small business or organization in the area."    
  • One of the projects from this show, "From Darkness to Daylight" by Ricardo Miranda Zuniga, is still available online here.  Originally an installation piece at the now defunct SILO Gallery, this online element archives the video and audio content, as well as a host of links and other information. Worth checking out.

The above mentioned projects are all new news to me, though there are a few I remember running across previously.   There is a piece on the Triple Canopy online site from a few years ago called Virtual Bowery by Dan Torop, which turned into a project called Bowery Birds.  Reading though it now I find it more interesting in than the first time, I suppose because I to am trying to decipher the meaning of the Bowery, personally and on a public scale.  A quote from the text: "I had thought of the street as one of the secret roots of the city, a place truer than the grid of streets and avenues it sunders."
  • The text also mentions a virtual recreation of the Lower East Side sponsored by MTV called "", and I found a New York Times article about the project here, from 2008.  I tried to find it online, but it seems to no longer be archived.  It even has a Facebook page, but none of the links to the site work.  I imagine it was hard to keep up with all of the neighborhood and technological changes all happening so quickly over the last few years. 

If we go back in time, Martha Rosler's "The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-75)" is pretty much the definitive portrait of the Bowery in a pre-Luc Sante "Low Life" world.  


Also, Hans Haacke's "Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 exposed the questionable transactions of Harry Shapolsky's real-estate business between 1951 and 1971. The work itself include detailed and accurate photo and text documentation of these transactions and landmarks. This solo show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which was to include this work and which made an issue of the business and personal connections of the museum's trustees, was canceled on the grounds of artistic impropriety by the museum's director six weeks before the opening." (source: Wikipedia)


What is interesting is that while these projects have created a portrait of the neighborhood at a specific time, many seemingly have vanished.  Little is left but some references in articles, much like the buildings that once stood where Avalon Bowery Place is today.  We have physical proof of their existence through archived photos and articles, but these projects may be gone forever with little traces left.  As opposed to Rosler and Haacke's work, which is composed of hard copy images, the the ephemeral quality of web based projects makes me wonder what we'll be left with in the future.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some shots from around East 1st Street circa early 2000's

EV Grieve recently posted a blurb about my post from a while back tracing property lines on the block where La Mama lives. (Thanks!)  Also Grieve let me know that Vanishing New York recently wrote up a great piece titled "Loss of Mars Bar" which chronicled the change this block has gone through over the years. (Thanks!)

I'm posting some images shot probably around 2001-3 from the block....these are all just screen captures culled from contact sheet scans, nothing fancy.  I have others lurking around somewhere.  I was starting a project around that time about the neighborhood and trying to figure out what kind of camera(s) to use, so they're mostly random shots of spaces which resonated with me for one reason or another (the empty lot on 1st St. and 2nd Ave, the UHaul lot, Liz Christy Garden, etc), not formal studies of anything.

More images to come in the future, but for now here's a few that I found:

Looking into the (emptied) UHaul lot, 1st st. and Bowery, SW corner

Same lot looking south when demo of the buildings started.

Looking north from Bowery and Houston.  Note - what will become the Bowery Hotel is still yellow here.  More on that building sometime soon.
The Liz Christy Garden in all its former glory, and the old school I mentioned in the previous post.
More Liz Christy Garden with the old fence still in place.

Crappy digital camera photo circa 2006 of what was built on the site.  Looking south from the west side of the Bowery.

Lot on NW corner of 1st st. and 2nd ave.

Same lot as above, looks to be later in time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2007 - LIz Christy Garden reopens / 2005 - 295 Bowery Demolished

In 2005, most of the block between 1st and Houston Street, Bowery and 2nd Ave, was demolished for the second phase of the Avalon Bay buildings. Liz Christy Garden, the oldest community garden in the neighborhood, was threatened, but luckily was saved.

2007 Downtown Express article 

I agree with this quote:

"To (Brandon) Krall, the loss of the fence is especially upsetting. What was once a combination of wooden posts, iron rails and a rose-covered trellis is now a standard-issue, Parks Department fence. “It is part of the homogenization that is taking place all over the city,” she said. “They took our unique fence and replaced it with a generic (Parks Dept.) one.”"

It's still a beautiful and amazing space, but the new fence took away some of its individuality.


Many other buildings on the block,  like 295 Bowery (pictured below), weren't so lucky.  Along with a few other buildings, there was an old school that was to occupied by squatters (some took care of the park I think).  A chapel was attached to the school....originally it was going to be saved but only now did I realize that it wasn't.  The building's occupants had a sort of film festival one night in the chapel back in, probably, 1994?  I remember going with some friends and showing a film....the generator supplying the electricity was almost out of gas, so the film ran much slower than the soundtrack (on cassette).  It was kind of amazing.  And, well, the space was amazing, all broken down and rotting.  Entry was though the gym of the school (the floors were shiny and the ceiling high), which faced onto a sort of parking lot space looking toward 1st street.  It was so dark in the building, I can't imagine how anyone could find their way around. 

Another memory is the U-Haul that used to be on the corner.  It was just a trailer and a parking lot full of trucks, but very convenient.  I was freelancing, I think around '99, working for an artist and moving his studio from Tribeca + DUMBO to Chelsea/East Williamsburg.  I could pick up a truck in the morning, move a bunch of stuff, then drop it off at night, then stumble home exhausted.  This was also handy for those "helping a friend move" moves, since right around this time it seemed everyone was moving to Brooklyn (which then consisted of Williamsburg.  Maybe Greenpoint.  But not Bushwick or Sunset Park.)

I have some photos before the demo of the block, somewhere.  4x5 and 6x7 actually.  Time to dig them out. (next morning....found some - will post in the next few days!)

More 295 Bowery info here at the Lower East Side History Project, and The NY Times

photo: vanishing downtown

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1991 - The Cooper Square Plan; also RIP Mars Bar

This NY Times article from 1991 gives quite a bit of background on the political reasons why the lot on Houston and Bowery sat vacant for so long.  At this point, the lots are called "Site 1A" and "Site 2" (now where the Avalon Bay complexes are).

Also, read at The Gothamist about whats going to happen to the last few remaining buildings left on the "Site 2" block (btwn Houston and 1st st., Bowery and 2nd ave).  RIP Mars Bar and the locksmith that will copy ANY key.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Endangered Bowery Relic Up for Sale for $6.5 Million

Building from 1818!  Resembles the ones being torn down in my previous post. Amazing its still standing, really!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1934 + 1938 - Extra Place

Photos from the NYPL Digital Gallery 1934 + 1938.  Learn more about Extra Place from a post from I pit up a few days ago....

If you zoom into the 1938 photo you can see workers dismantling some early-mid 1800's housing that used to line 2nd street (see the post with the comparison of maps from different time periods for a refresher)

The La Mama building is on the left, and looks much the same as it does today (now that the usual wheat-pasting and graffiti items have been removed).

1864 - The Bowery looking south from Cooper Union

I know I said this blog was about the "New" Bowery, but I couldn't resist posting this 1864 painting of the Bowery looking south from what would have been a very new Cooper Union.

More info at the NYPL Digital Gallery

also same view: Cooper Sq. 1905

Sunday, December 5, 2010

1991 - Way Cleared for Long-Delayed Housing

NY Times article - rumblings from the early 90's during Mayor Dinkins reign about "several sites near the Bowery and Houston Street" (what is now the Avalon Bay complex of buildings).

"IN Cooper Square, after 31 years of a neighborhood battle against urban renewal plans that would have displaced 1,200 families, agreement was announced in December for several sites near the Bowery and Houston Street in Manhattan.

Plans call for building 560 new apartments for $16 million and renovating 430 in 37 buildings for $17 million. The renovated units will be for low- and moderate-income tenants. Of the new apartments, 200 will be rentals and 360 will be owner-occupied cooperatives or condominiums, with a fifth reserved for low-income residents and the rest for residents of middle and moderate income.

The Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen's Association helped negotiate the agreement, and local residents will help oversee the project and select tenants and owners. The project will include a community center."

from NYCityMap- 1996 map of Houston-2nd street off the Bowery - white squares are where the buildings eventually were built in the early 2000's

2008 - "Giant Girl Reclines on Houston Street"

NY Times article about "The Outsiders" show put on by Lazarides, a London gallery, and located in a gutted former restaurant supply store right on Houston and Bowery (now a fancy restaurant).  Artist JR pasted the figure of a reclining woman onto the outside of the building, which we learned"According to the artist, the current image is of a pregnant 16-year-old girl about to give birth in the streets of Monrovia, Liberia, and it is part of a series that focuses on violence to women in war-torn Africa."

I remember the show was supposed to "shake things up" but to me it felt a bit weird,  limiting, as the work had to fit all in one space.  The more traditional work fit with the space, like Conor Harrignton's paintings, but I suppose nonetheless an interesting experiment.

  (Photo: Ian Cox/Lazarides Gallery)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some "Extra Place" history

The alley next to La Mama is called Extra Place. It was hardly recognizable as an alley until recently, when part of the Avalon Bay conglomerate of buildings went up next door. Its been re-branded and architecturally rendered as a pedestrian mall, though only bits and bobs have come to fruition. Check out this piece for the Huffington Post about Extra Place by Kevin Walsh, the creator of Forgotten New York.  Thanks to Bowery Boogie for posting this picture from the Forgotten NY website, its made me do a bit of digging.

Extra Place in 1978. Photo: Bob Mulero, found at the Forgotten NY website.