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