On the Old Bowery: Brothel at 206
This long-overdue installment of On the Old Bowery dates back almost fifteen years to the day. January 5, 1996.
Armed with the Manifest Destiny mentality, developers are quickly transforming the Bowery from top to bottom. Historical houses and turn-of-the-century tenements along the thoroughfare are under constant threat from this front-line assault. Since last summer, 206 Bowery has been a focal point of such threats. The owner of the 1800s Federal style row house sought to evict the tenants and raze the iconic structure. But thanks to the efforts of holdout and longtime resident, Ralph Lewis, the Landmarks Preservation Commission caught wind of the situation, and fast-tracked the building for possible landmarking. The process remains painfully slow, but hopes are high. Especially with the endorsement of Speaker Sheldon Silver.
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Like so many other properties on the Bowery, 206 Bowery has quite the colorful history in its old age, well deserving of some renewed attention. Which brings us to a New York Times article published on January 5, 1996. Indeed, in one of its former lives, 206 Bowery was actually a sex slave house. A “heavily guarded” brothel, where Thai women were smuggled and forced to have sex with over 400 men in order to score freedom. All were lured to the Bowery under false pretenses of lucrative restaurant jobs. Instead, scores of women were held captive behind a complex series of locked doors, which were monitored by guards and video cameras.
The human trafficking had occurred for over a year before the five-person ring was caught and shut down.