Photographer Maisel Scores $55 Million on Bowery Property

Photo by Beyond My Ken

The Germania Bank Building, located at 190 Bowery at the corner of Spring Street in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was built in 1898-99 and was designed by Robert Maynicke in the Renaissance Revival style. It is a New York City landmark. Photo by Beyond My Ken

In what some are saying is one of the greatest return on investment for real estate in New York City, photographer Jay Maisel sold his Gilded Age bank building, the Germania Bank, for a whopping $55 million, after paying a mere $102,000 about forty years ago.

The property, located at 190 Bowery, is a graffiti-covered relic which developers have been salivating over for years as the once seedy neighborhood transformed to a trendy, up and coming hot spot in Manhattan. Maisels has been living in the building with his wife and daughter, using the lower floors as his studio and the upper floors for his living space. Last year the photographer cut a deal with developer Aby Rosen, but the record of the sale was filed with the city on Thursday.

Rosen already relisted the property for sale with realtor Cushman & Wakefield before the end of last year.

The Bowery Ballroom’s Swier Heading West

The Bowery's New Branch Coming Soon to Los Angeles

The Bowery’s New Branch Coming Soon to Los Angeles

Michael Swier, founder and owner of the Mercury Lounge, which opened in 1994, and the Bowery Ballroom, 1998, is about to open a new music venue on the west side… of the country!

Yes you heard it right- Swier, a non-apologetic New Yorker, has purchased a 100-year-old former silent film theater on the outskirts of downtown LA and is transforming it into the Teragram, a deluxe modern rock club which can entertain 600 people in one go. Swier’s brother Brian, an architect who helped design the New York clubs, is one of his partners on the LA venture.

Swier also started Bowery Presents, a concert company that for the past ten years has become one of the country’s largest independent promoters. The company has become a major force, not just in New York, but all the way from Maine to New Orleans. According to Pollstar, a trade publication, Bowery Presents sold 1.1 million tickets in 2014.

The LA venture, Teragram, is scheduled to open in March, 2015. The $2 million spent on renovating the old space will make it completive with such venerable Southern California hot spots as the Roxy and the Troubadour.

“I just want it to be the best-sounding room and the best experience for people coming to see the music and for how bands are treated when they get here,” Mr. Swier said. “I want to bring my reputation of how I do that in New York, and I think there is room for a place of this size and this quality in L.A.”

Thanksgiving Day has a Long Tradition at the Bowery Mission

After 135 years the Bowery Mission is still helping people, and this past Thanksgiving they were certainly still at it.

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

The Bowery Mission photo by Beyond My Ken

One mother from Queens, Jenny Vargas, together with her 6-year-old daughter Lian, were just two people who benefited from a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, in addition to the other benefits they receive from the Bowery Mission.

Although Vargas, a 37-year-old immigrant from Peru, works as a house cleaner, she often finds it hard to put enough food on the table on her income alone. “Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s not enough,” she explains.

Vargas comes to the Bowery Mission on the Lower East Side from her home in Queens to fill up on essential supplies when she just can’t afford them herself. When she heard that the mission was hosting a traditional Thanksgiving meal, she wanted to be on hand with her daughter; not just to have a great meal, but to also show that she understands the meaning of this quintessential American holiday.

“I want to say thank you, because we have everything — health, food, she’s going to school. We don’t need a lot,” she said. “I want her to know what we do for Thanksgiving — and why. This is a time to give thanks.”

As it has during the past century plus, the Bowery Mission served thousands of meals to those entering the premises as well as those getting their meals delivered all over New York.

“We’re trying to provide a Thanksgiving meal for folks who otherwise wouldn’t have family to be with,” said James Winans, the chief development officer.

Celebrating Diversity: The Fabulous French Fry

Sir Kensington's French FriesWe certainly know that New York City is hard to top when it comes to diversity, but what you probably did not realize that this description of our city goes way beyond ethnicity and culture.
Apparently, at least according to the curators of a new pop-up art exhibit called “Fries of New York,” there are no less than 85 different types of fries served around town.

In order to showcase his specialty brand of mayonnaise and ketchup, Sir Kensington’s co-founder Scott Norton decided to put together this exhibit of New York’s fries.
“Our No. 1 focus was to show the diversity of French fries there is in the city,” said Norton, the curator of the exhibit. “We wanted to get a selection where every fry was different from the other.”

Beginning this past July Norton and his business partner Mark Ramadan began traveling the width and breadth of the city scouting out unique styles of fries. Some classics were chosen, as well as a more unusual taro fry from Boahaus restaurant, a pomme soufflé fry from 21 Club, and a cocoa and chili-sprinkled waffle fry from Max Brenner.

A total of 85 different kinds of fries were selected, and last week were retrieved and brought back to the Guild’s studio, the production company that is helping Ramadan and Norton with their project. The workers then took each fry, covered it with a special resin to prevent spoilage and to maintain their fresh-out-of-the-fryer look.

Finally the fries will be place in small glass cases. No fries will be on hand to taste but those who do stop by on either November 7 or 8 will be offered free samples of Sir Kensington’s organic ketchup, mayo and mustard.

“You can’t be obsessed with ketchup without being obsessed with fries by association,” Norton said. “Today we have Mediterranean restaurants making fries with zaatar, which are Middle Eastern herbs, we have restaurants that boil their fries in truffle oil… We wanted to show that diversification.”

“Fries of New York” will be on display at 168 Bowery on Nov. 7 and 8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The International Center of Photography Coming to the Bowery

Moving Day Coming to the ICP

Moving Day Coming to the ICP

Last March artnet News reported that the lease on the space in which the International Center of Photography was expiring.  Ever since we have been waiting to hear to where the ICP would make their move.

We need wait no more. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the board of the ICP gave the go-ahead for the purchase of a building on the Bowery. The premises is close to the New Museum, and the announcement said that the new space will be up and running by mid-2015.

The old lease held by the ICP on a space in midtown, which is up in January 2015, has been in effect as a practically rent-free agreement since the 1980s. Mark Lubell, executive director of the ICP, did not say how much the new building will cost, or its exact location, due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing negotiations. Lubell did explain why he picked the Bowery over some other prime spots in New York for the ICP.

“There’s openness to experimentation and ideas in that part of town,” Lubell is quoted in the Times. “Chelsea is a wonderful place, but it’s already done and established. We’d be following, and I don’t want to follow.”

The ICP has a collection with more than 100,000 photographs. There are major holdings of such photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Lisette Model, and Garry Winogrand, and others. The collection will be moving from the Midtown site into the Mana Contemporary, a storage and exhibition space for fine art collections in Jersey City. ICP will open a media lab there which will provide access to the photos.

Constance Cooper Coming to the Bowery Poetry Club

Constance Cooper

Constance Cooper

Constance Cooper, known for her poetry reading and piano and electric keyboard tuned just a quarter-tone apart, will be appearing on September 14 at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Cooper will perform as a soloist as part of the 9/11 Cultural Festival, reading poems about violence and loss by the Polish, Nobel-prize-winning poet Wyslawa Szymborska. The specially tuned piano and keyboard are known for their uncanny ability to reproduce the elusive pitches found in the spoken human voice.

Cooper has had a busy year, creating and collaborating on several projects. In March she performed together with mime Andrea Clinton in a without-break, three-hour duet improvisation which was inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe poem “A Dream Within a Dream.” Cooper and Clinton had previously collaborated on Poe’s “The Raven” at the New York Poe Visitor Center.

She also appeared as the keyboards improviser for George Bernard Shaw’s “Don Juan in Hell” at the Medicine Show Theater in June and July. In the middle of July Cooper improvised one of her own compositions for the “Walt Whitman Opera” at the underground zero festival, also in New York.

Artists Priced Out of New York, Heading to LA

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey and Hope

New Yorkers, who have always prided themselves as cultural pioneers, should be concerned that new and upcoming artists have no affordable places to live and work anymore in the Big Apple.

Shepard Fairey, who now lives in Los Angeles, is a popular street artist who has a lot to say on this subject. Fairey is the creator of the ubiquitous Obama 2008 campaign poster “Hope,” among other major works. He was attending a Hennessy V.S luncheon at Soho House New York honoring his design for a label on a limited-edition bottle of their signature Cognac.

Fairey warned that New York stands to lose its place as America’s cultural mecca if it doesn’t act.

“New York was a hub for so long [because] high-low culture, high-low economics co-mingled very fluidly for years.”

“New York is incredibly successful, and one of the things that’s suffering is space for people to be struggling to make something that ­nobody’s seen before, or hear something ­nobody’s seen before, where they have no money and it’s not commercially viable yet, but it’s going to be the next thing. That’s happening in LA,” Fairey commented.

All the great neighborhoods that used to house struggling artists, such as Soho, the Bowery, Greenwich Village and Williamsburg, are now centers for high-rent condos and office buildings which used to house artists’ lofts and studios.

“You can’t be in New York and not have ¬either a trust fund or a good enough job to live,” he added. “Artists are screwed in New York right now.”

Fairey is working on a mural right now at 161 Bowery as part of the Little Italy Street Art Project.

Iconic Bowery Building Up for Sale? Maybe, Maybe Not

109 Bowery: For Sale or Not For Sale, that is the question.

109 Bowery: For Sale or Not For Sale, that is the question.

Built in 1898 as the third branch of Germania Bank, the building found at 109 Bowery has since the neighborhood change from what was known as “Little Germany” to a low-income, depressed neighborhood in Manhattan, and back up to an up and coming gentrified area.

As the neighborhood decayed the building went into disuse, and was finally bought by photographer Jay Maisel, who has been living, working and exhibiting his art for the past fifty years.

According to Crain’s, the building has been listed as for sale on RFR Reality, but with a dearth of details. However, the official website for 190 Bowery clearly states that the building is definitely not for sale. The one page site has a link to a New York Magazine article, the Wikipedia article about the building and this brief message:

PLEASE NOTE: The building is not for sale, and there is no space in the building for rent. Any real estate-related emails will be ignored.

Maisel bought the building for $102,000 five decades ago, which translates into about $750,000 in 2014 dollars. It has about 37,000 square feet of floor space, 72 rooms and has hosted the painter Roy Lichtenstein. Maisel has a gallery in the building and is living space for his wife and daughter since 2008.

The Crain’s report stated that as of 2008 the graffiti covered building was worth about $50 million. We’ll see if a price like that could persuade Maisel to sell.

Parking Signage of the People and for the People

Have you ever had trouble figuring out when you can park on certain streets? You are not alone. For the past two years the city has been slowly introducing new signage designed in such a way to help simplify the message and communicate the parking rules in a clearer manner.

The Lower East Side has been getting new signs over the past approximately six months, but some residents are not convinced that the message is any better presented than the old signs.

Nicole Sylianteng has been raising awareness on a grassroots level for the possibility of a brand new look for our parking signs. Since January she has been placing laminated, bar-graph representations of the parking rules, inviting comments from users. Under each sign is a place to comment about the clarity and usefulness of the sign, with a permanent marker hanging right there to make it easy for users to give their opinions.

Norfolk Street Sign Waiting for Your Response

Norfolk Street Sign Waiting for Your Response

“The feedback has been pretty great to say the least,” Sylianteng wrote in an email. “It seems to hit on something people feel very strongly about.”

Will the DOT take Sylianteng’s efforts seriously? We hope so.

The Bowery’s History in Pictures

delancey-mcnyThanks to the Museum of the City of New York for preserving this photo which shows what Delancey Street looked like during a major widening of the road in 1904. The view of the photo is from Bowery eastward to the newly constructed Williamsburg Bridge, which can be seen in the far background. The goal of the street work was to make Delancey Street wide enough to accommodate the traffic to the approach to the bridge.

The following is an excerpt from a memo from New York Mayor Low’s administration:

On May 29, 1903, the board of estimate and appointment voted to widen Delancey and Suffolk Streets, and to extend Delancey Street to Elm Street (eventually incorporated into Lafayette). Delancey and Suffolk Streets are each now 50 feet wide. Delancey Street will be widened to 150 feet between Clinton Street and the Bowery. West of the Bowery to Elm Street, it will be 80 feet wide. The completion of the Williamsburg Bridge is promised in early 1904.