Sale of Five Bowery Properties for $45M Threatens Its Rich Cultural History

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 at 6:09 am by
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Yesterday afternoon, we broke the blockbuster news that five historically significant buildings on the Bowery were sold as a package deal for $45 million. While still unconfirmed, it’s rumored that the buyer is John Young of Emmut Properties. Luxury living is allegedly planned for the 75,000 square-feet of buildable real estate, whether through rentals or condos.

Preservationists are most likely gearing up for a fight, as two of the victims – 134 and 136 Bowery – are both Federal-style row houses that date back to 1798. Let’s repeat that – 17-muthafuckin-98! The 1893 article below, culled from the archive of The World, best articulates the importance of these Bowery addresses…

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“Broadway ain’t in it with the Bowery,” he said.

“No,” he said, “they feel very proud of Broadway, but as streets go, give me the Bowery. It don’t put on no airs. Why there’s whole rows of houses, with the slate on their peaked roofs, standin’ there yet that was built seventy-five years ago. Mebbe you’ve been in ’em. They don’t leak, they don’t settle, and they don’t fall down. They was built to stay. There ain’t nothin’ on Broadway that stays: not even the old City Hall. They’ll put the Astor House down some of these  mornin’s and put up an insurance building.

No, sir, Broadway may be the brains, but the Bowery is the heart of it. When a man goes to sleep his brains rest, don’t they? Well, when New York goes to sleep you come over here and see.

“Yes, they call it the old Bowery. That’s what it is. We ain’t got no other street that’s old. It’s the only street left to a New Yorker that reminds him of old times; and as for character” – he pronounced it char-ac-ter – “well, they tell me there’s streets in London and Paris like Broadway, but I never heard anybody say there was a Bowery outside of New York.”

The only real silver lining here is that the west side of the street is protected by the Special Little Italy District. Building heights in this neighborhood (east side of Bowery) are limited to eighty-five feet. As for contextual, “exterior materials of the front wall shall be predominantly of masonry.”

And here is further proof that this stretch of real estate has remained unchanged for over a century:

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The Bowery, circa 1900

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