Fear and Loathing Gentrification on the Bowery, Circa 1904
His name was Chuck Connors, the unofficial “mayor” of Chinatown at the turn of last century. Connors lived on Doyers Street and was friends with Richard K. Fox, founding owner of the historic lifestyle magazine Police Gazette. He lived there rent-free due to a purported arrangement with the publication to which he provided a man-on-the-street column.
The Gazette itself is considered a forerunner of the contemporary men’s lifestyle magazine as we know it (e.g. Maxim, Playboy). Coverage flirted with obscenity, including murders, wild-west antics, and sport. There were also engravings and photographs of scantily clad strippers, burlesque dancers, and prostitutes.
In one such Gazette entry – column number 6 published sometime in 1904 – Connors bemoaned the loss of his beloved “old Bowery.” The loss of so-called “free-and-easys” and musuems to “stores and business buildings” (gentrification?). Written as dialogue in the parlance of the time.
Much like Travis Bickle quipped seventy years later, Conners also wondered when the “Street Cleaning Department” will “wipe us off de map.”