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.

Paulaner Re-Opens on the Bowery Better Suited to Please Patrons

Paulaner Re-Opened on May 30

Paulaner Re-Opened on May 30

As of May 30 the Paulaner Brauhaus NYC re-opened with a new, fabulous look. The restaurant/brewery now has a shorter name and a new chef to match their completely re-done menu.

Located on the Bowery, the 4,000 square-foot microbrewery shortened its handle to just Paulaner. The establishment was first opened in November, 2013, but it never really established itself as quite hip enough for the up and coming neighborhood. Wolfgang Ban, co-owner of an upscale Austrian restaurant in midtown and also Edi & the Wolf on the Lower East Side, was called in to consult on Paulaner’s new look.

“It’s always difficult to talk about a situation when you come in wanting to change it,” said Mr. Ban. “I think one of the bigger disconnects I saw was the chef who is American. I don’t think he understood the German flavor profile.”

In addition to re-tooling the menu, a 16-foot long, rustic communal table and booths was added. New lighting and interior design was created also to create a whole new look and feel.

The Bowery Begins Major Traffic Face Lift

Traffic on Bowery about to improve

Traffic on Bowery about to improve

The Department of Transportation is bearing down on the stubborn traffic problems faced by motorists trying to negotiate their way through the famed bottleneck at Spring Street and the Bowery. Monday began the upgrade with the tearing up of the median there. Unfortunately, to the worry of residents, a fire hydrant was collateral damage on Thursday, leaking water all over the place. Although the damage has not been remedied yet, at least the water is being held in check.

Traffic improvements to the intersection will be dealt with in the following phased plan:

  • The southbound on Bowery left turn lane will be moved over to make way for an additional through lane. Two dedicated receiving lanes will help reduce congestion.
  • A new “signal phase” will introduce a light system which will have a flashing yellow arrow signaling to drivers to yield to pedestrians. This system is now undergoing testing around town.
  • The island at Delancey will be reshaped for easier turning. The new median will include trees to help make the neighborhood lovelier.

Several other changes are in the plans, including giving northbound pedestrians an 11 second head start to cross Delancey. During those crucial 11 seconds cars turning left from Bowery will be halted, so pedestrians can cross without fear of being crushed by turning cars.

Bowery Presents Seeking Williamsburg Venue for New Music Hall

Building on Frost Street is proposed for new Bowery Presents music space

Building on Frost Street is proposed for new Bowery Presents music space

The minutes from Community Board 1 in Brooklyn’s May 13 meeting includes a presentation for “a proposed new music venue.” The venue, it is hoped, will be at 319 Frost Street, between Morgan and Debevoise Avenues in East Williamsburg, and will hold about 2000 seats.

Bringing the proposal to light are Bowery Presents owner Jim Glancy, proposed manager Brian Harkenrider, and Hal Gold, to be head of operations.

Bowery Presents is currently and independent music promoter which runs the Bowery Ballroom, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and other sites. The new venue, which, if all goes well will hopefully open in about a year, is using the working title “Brooklyn Classic.” In addition to getting the Community Board’s approval the project, known as FroBro LLC, is also seeking a license from the State Liquor Authority.

Jim Glancy, owner of Bowery Presents stated that “we don’t have a timeline on opening and aren’t doing press right now.”

He added that Brooklyn Classic is just the working name of the venue at the moment and a final decision on a name won’t be made until much closer to the hoped for opening date in about a year.

Bowery’s Salvation Army Retreating to New Headquarters in Brooklyn

the salvation army

Last Bowery outpost of the Salvation Army is no more

A true testament to the times we are living in was the recent closure of the Bowery’s last branch of the helping institution, the Salvation Army. The Army moved in a little over 100 years ago into what was called then “Booth House.” The veteran institution came to the Bowery to help down and out men, a population that has frequented the Bowery for almost as long as the neighborhood existed.

During World War II the country’s economic situation improved and the number of homeless men declined. Services for populations at risk improved. Many of the alcoholics, prostitutes and vagrants who had inhabited the area fled as a result of a concerted effort by the city to remove them.

Through the decades since the war the neighborhood has gone through many changes. The latest upheaval has been the hurried gentrification of the Bowery with an increasing number of renovations, new restaurants and other shops opening up to satisfy a new population of upwardly mobile residents.

As a result institutions like the Salvation Army play a smaller role in the neighborhood’s culture. Perhaps even more of an influence is the real estate boom Manhattan is experiencing now, where even old, dilapidated apartments and buildings are fetching awesome prices.

The building at 223-225 Bowery is one of the tallest along the one-mile stretch of street, its height a symbol of the hope the Salvation offered to the most downtrodden among New Yorkers. Now the building will take on a whole new meaning, as it is turned into a high-end hotel and luxury condominium. The developers paid $30 million for the premises, and will most likely be able to recoup their investment many-fold as apartments in the area are fetching as much as $2,500 per square foot.

The Salvation Army will be setting up their new shop in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. That neighborhood was chosen as it is also has burgeoning ethnic Chinese population similar to that the Bowery.

A Café Idea Which May Cat(ch) On!

This coming weekend, from Thursday, April 24 to Sunday, April 27, cat lovers can share a latte with their feline friends. Be sure to bring your favorite cat on over to 168 Bowery where the country’s first ever cat coffee shop will be open for business. Sponsored by Purina

Purina sponsoring cat cafe on the Bowery this weekend

Purina sponsoring cat cafe on the Bowery this weekend

, a giant US pet food manufacturer, the café will be of the ‘pop-up’ variety.

The ambiance takes its cue from a phenomenon that is common in Japan. Due to the Japanese cultural love of cats combined with strict bans on owning them in apartment buildings, or simply because of the lack of space in crowded Japanese cities, a compromise developed in which customers can enjoy the cats which are allowed to wander freely in an otherwise ordinary a coffee shop.

Cat lovers can enjoy a great cup of coffee or tea while spending time with their favorite domesticated breed, without the cumbersome burden of actually owning a cat. Here in the US however, where if someone wants to own a cat he/she usually simply does, Purina’s cat café has a distinctly different purpose.

The shop will be full of cats enjoying themselves wandering around the shop, but they will be up for adoption. The staff of the café will be available to answer questions about pet care, and as experts can correctly inform prospective owners about how best to care for a cat.

“We hope our cat cafe is one small step toward a greater focus on cat health,” said Purina brand manager Brian Williams. “Our goal for the Cat Cafe is to create a rich, interactive environment that empowers cat owners to learn more about their cat’s health and nutritional needs.”