“Come Closer” Tells the Tale of Artists on the Bowery

 Curt Hoppe

“Bettie and The Ramones,” oil on canvas by Curt Hoppe

Opening on Wednesday and running through January is an exhibit at the New Museum examining the life of artists who chose to make their home along the infamous Manhattan boulevard known as the Bowery.

During the 60s, 70s and 80s the Bowery was a well-known haven for the homeless and those otherwise seeking the cheapest possible places to live. Flophouses and tumbledown apartment hotels housed the penniless of every stripe, including starving artists.

The exhibit will have on view 40 pieces from 20 Bowery artists who lived in the midst of those impoverished conditions; a reality that is fast fading into the annals of history as the Bowery remakes itself into a hip, high-rent and low tolerance for poverty, district.

“The Bowery was spoken about as a no-man’s-land, a thoroughfare of how people got to the Manhattan Bridge or to the Williamsburg Bridge,” said the show’s curator, Ethan Swan. Swan is also in charge of educational development at the New Museum, which is located at 235 Bowery.

“It was not a place that people thought of staying in much,” he added.

One exception was the artists, who were willing to overlook what others avoided and rented out loft space for dirt-cheap. At first the artists left their surroundings out of their works. That began to change beginning in 1969.

“That is when the artists started to really invite the Bowery into their studios,” Swan explained.

Curt Hoppe is one of the artists who began to fall in love with the Bowery. His work as a painter and photographer is included in the “Come Closer” show.

“If you have to run from the subway to your apartment, that is when you know you are in a good neighborhood,” said Hoppe, who still lives and works in his studio at 98 Bowery, a building that housed many of the era’s well-known artists.

“It has been just a very cool building… there is something special about this building, but I don’t know what it is,” added Hoppe.

Oldest Bowery Building Demolished, Land Now for Sale

Councilwoman Margaret Chin

After losing a battle for historic building status and a turnaround by a city councilwoman, the oldest building on The Bowery was demolished earlier this year, and the land it was built on is now up for sale.

Originally Councilwoman Margaret Chin had supported landmark status for the Federal-style; three-story building at 135 Bowery, built in 1817, making it the oldest building on the boulevard, and landmark status was granted. Later, however Chin changed her mind when First American International Bank assured her and the City Council that they would create affordable office space in the new seven-floor building, and its landmark status was revoked.

The revocation was exactly one year ago, when the Council voted 49-1 to remove its protection from the wrecking ball. That led the way, fast and furious, to the destruction of the building, upsetting neighbors, local preservationists, and historians.

And now add insult to injury. First American International Bank, which owned the building and property since 2007, is selling out to the tune of $8.5 million. The sale is being handled by Massey Knakal. Here is the ad. In case you were wondering which side of the street 135 Bowery was on, its not what it says below. The now sadly empty lot is on the east side of The Bowery.

135 Bowery is a prime development site located on the west side of Bowery between Grand and Broome Streets. The property was recently demolished and the foundation for the new development has recently been installed. There are DOB approved plans and permits issued for a 20,427SF building (including cellar), consisting of an 8 story commercial loft building with retail on the ground floor.

The Bowery was recently added to the State Register of Historic Places, an important step towards being added to the National Register of Historic Places. Both lists indicate the likelihood of the Bowery’s future landmarking and potentially being designated a historic district, which will have no effect on the current development but will limit the development of the surrounding buildings.

ICAP tax benefits have been applied for and the New York City Department of Finance has verified that the application is approved. The property will receive an annual abatement of approximately $72,000 over a 10-year period starting in mid-2013. The development of this property would be ideal for a commercial user, non-profit institution or investor.


 

Legend Quitting the Bowery and Heading Uptown to Nolita

Brewster Carriage House

The New York Post is reporting that musician John Legend had recently purchased a one-bedroom condominium in North Little Italy (Nolita) immediately after selling is two-bedroom condo on the Bowery. The new residence is at 374 Broome Street; a 2.5 bathroom, one bedroom, 1,969-square-foot apartment in the Brewster Carriage House. It is reported that Legend was able to chisel off $50,000 from the asking price of $2.55 million. Legends pad on the Bowery reportedly went for $2.795 million, also lower than the asking price of $2.95 million. Although he lost a bedroom in Brewster, he gained up 600-square-feet.

The building on Broome Street used to be the home of the famous carriage manufacturer Brewster & Co. In 2005 developer Ross Morgan purchased the property and divided it into 9 living units with a complete renovation of the interior.
 

Running For NYC and Baltimore

Marathons seem to be the new running rage in the last few years.  This fall there is a slew of marathons to choose from.  Of course here in New York City there is the world famous marathon, but other places like Baltimore seem to be happening events as well.

We asked two runners from NYC what they though of adding Baltimore to their race schedule.

We first asked Frank Storch from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. “Normally I would be training only for the NYC Marathon, but I decided to go for the Baltimore Marathon in October at a slower clip to get ready for the NYC Marathon,” Frank Storch said.

Another runner, Shlawnda Stevens echoed Storch’s view, at least as an ideal. “Yeah I think that maybe an interesting approach, but my only question would be the rebound time after Baltimore.”

Thankfully there is still plenty of time to sign up and decide either between the two or to do both.

Audrey Laurent Named Sales Director of the Bowery Hotel

Audrey Laurent

Last week Sean MacPherson and Richard Born, the owners of the Bowery Hotel, announced the appointment of Audrey Laurent as the new Director of Sales. Laurent comes on board with over 18 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including operating several Manhattan boutique hotels.

For the past ten years Laurent was the Operations director for the Mercer Hotel, and before that she managed daily operations at the Ace and Paramount Hotels.

“We are delighted to welcome Audrey to our team. She has a remarkable, comprehensive hospitality background and is dedicated to the hotel’s design, concept and culture.” said General Manager Kirk Wilson.
 

Busy Bees Banned from Bowery

Swarm of Bees in Tree

In what turned out to be a short-term rental, about 9000 feral bees, weighing about three pounds all together, were removed from a tree by New York Police Department bee specialist Anthony Planakis.

Last Wednesday’s removal was just the latest of several similar removals conducted around the city in the past few months. In the Bronx, on April 30th over 7000 hunter bees were taken from a tree located in front of a bodega in the Melrose neighborhood. Earlier in May another group of thousands of hymenopteras were evicted from their temporary home in Astoria, Queens.

While removing the bees without protective clothing Planakis remarked, “It’s gonna be a very busy season. When it rains, they usually stay away and don’t want to be outside. But when the climate changes, they swarm.”

Planakis explained that it’s the queen of the hive that decides it’s time to move, and the rest just follow her lead. That is what Planakis believes happened on Wednesday in The Bowery.

Several onlookers were impressed with the attention the bees were receiving, not just from the spectators, but also from the police.
One bystander, Lance Anderson commented that, “They don’t even send Emergency Service trucks for most crimes. It’s kinda cool.”

Tour the Newest Bowery Buildings with Architect John Hill

The New Museum of Contemporary Art

Come take a look at some of what’s new on the Bowery. From Spring Street to Astor Place, and many of the side streets along the way, John Hill, architect and blogger, will take you to see many of the Bowery’s newest buildings.

The 92nd Street Y’s Tribeca branch is hosting “The Bowery Changing,” an opportunity to get to know one of New York’s most historical neighborhoods with adjunct professor at the New York Institute of Technology and the author of “Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture,” John Hill.

The tour is scheduled for July 14, 2012, at 11am and meeting in front of the New Museum at 235 Bowery at Prince Street. The cost to participate is $25.
 

One Mile House Offers Beer and Great Traditional Pub Cuisine

One Mile House

At number 10 Delancey Street on the Lower East Side a new watering hole whose heart is in the past has opened. The canteen is named “One Mile House,” after a famed 19th century bar located exactly one mile from City Hall; perfectly positioned so that city politicos who needed a little brewsky while on the job could walk on over and whet their whistles while still running the city.

Today’s “One Mile House” is a comfortable meeting place with a generously sized lounge and large, airy windows letting in just the right amount of light during the day, while at night the stop is lit with rounded orbs creating an intimate and warm atmosphere.

The décor does not quite reach back to the 1800s, but does give a nod and wink to the heyday of New York during the ‘roaring twenties’ and “depression thirties,” with antique subway tiles, tin ceilings and newspaper clippings from that era decorating the restrooms.

Along with an always changing beer list which will make the most avid beer aficionado smile is a menu serving classic pub-style food such as burgers, Hot Legs, (a version of buffalo wings), and some twists on pizza. Especially fun is the once-a-month event when breweries come into “One Mile House” and do a “Tap Takeover,” offering samples of their own special concoctions.

Whether you are a politician or just a beer lover, “One Mile House” is worth a visit. 10 Delancey Street // 646-559-0702

Age No Obstacle for Tony Polito, Legendary Tattoo Artist in New York

Tony Polito


At the age of 14 Tony Polito got his first tattoo. That was back in 1959, and it was true love ever since. That same year Polito began working as a tattoo artist himself, mainly serving sailors in such rough neighborhoods as Coney Island and the Bowery, where the majority of tattoo parlors were located.

Just two years later, in 1961, tattooing became an illegal endeavor in New York City due to an outbreak of hepatitis. While most tattoo artist just left town to work in other cities in New York State, Polito stayed behind in the city, working in his basement or other hidden spaces.

“For a couple of years I was the only one in town" he remembers. He had as many as 50 to 80 clients per day. They mostly wanted their tattoos done "fast and cheap."

The ban on tattoo parlors in the city was finally lifted in 1997, and fancy tattoo parlors opened up all over the Village. Today tattooing is gentrified to a certain extent, in contrast to the way Polito, who is still working at age 77, describes the past:

"In the 60s it was rough, you had to know your karate," Tony says.
 

New Museum Installs 28-Foot Tall Rose on Facade

If you’re walking down the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side this week, you may notice something different on the facade of the New Museum. A 28-foot tall steel, aluminum and lacquer rose now stands on the museum’s ledge where Ugo Rondinone’s Hell, Yes! rainbow used to be.

German Post-war Contemporary sculptor Isa Genzken created Rose II, her first piece of public art to be installed in the United States. It was installed on Saturday and will remain on view through 2011. (Genzken made her first Rose in 1993.)

Rondinone’s Hell, Yes! was put up on the facade of the New Museum in December 2007 to celebrate the contemporary museum’s first freestanding building on the Bowery.

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