Weegee’s Bowery on Display in Jersey City

Rubber stamp used by the photographer Weegee (Arthur Fellig) for signing his pictures.

Rubber stamp used by the photographer Weegee (Arthur Fellig) for signing his pictures.

If you hurry you can still catch an exhibit well worth your time. Until August 5th Jersey City’s Mana Contemporary will be showing the work of Usher Fellig, better known as Weegee, depicting the Bowery when it was deep in its “Skid Row” phase.

Usher Fellig, born in what is now Ukraine in 1899, was an ‘infamous’ New York City press photographer. Usher was changed to Arthur upon his arrival to US shores, but he became Weegee somewhere along the way because of his uncanny ability to arrive at crime scenes within minutes of their occurrence. (Weegee is a misspelling of Ouija, as in the board that connects this world to the “other world.”)

His black and white renderings of urban life are shocking statements about the harsh realities of life in New York during the 30s and 40s of the 20th century.

The exhibit, Weegee’s New York,  focus on the down and out population that gathered in the Bowery, living in the shadow of the Third Avenue El, on the street, in flea-bag hotels, and flop houses which could be had for only 25 cents/night.

The International Center for Photography in New York City was given Weegee’s estate in 1997. In 2015 ICP opened a branch at Mana in Jersey City in 2015 as an expansion of it Manhattan campus. The exhibit, which closes on August 5th, was organized by ICP in honor of the opening of a new branch in the Bowery.

ICP at Mana is open only by advanced appointment. To make an appointment contact: [email protected]
Hours Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays, noon-6 p.m. Admission is free.

The Bowery is Preparing Itself to Welcome PYT- Any Day Now

PYT BOTW #4 - Chicken Cordon Bleu burger. Photo by Jessica Rossi

PYT BOTW #4 – Chicken Cordon Bleu burger. Photo by Jessica Rossi

New Yorkers just can’t help themselves: news of a new eatery on its way simply sets the saliva flowing and the anxiety level growing. The latest longing is directed towards a Philadelphia-based eatery that made the decision to enter the New York market last February, but did not announce a location until this past summer: 334 Bowery. Back then, in the month of June, the loose timetable for opening day predicted an “early October” opening day, but it seems a little more time is needed.

In the meantime the more curious among us can sneak a peek into the new branch of PYT and anticipate their visit. The windows are up and un-blocked so it is possible to see that there is a bar and counter-top near the doorway, supplied with bar-stools. In the back is an arcade cabinet with the PYT brand emblazoned on it.

As for the food, we were told back in July by the PYT master Tommy Up that we can expect some of their favorite fun food fare:

“Cheesesteak Pretzel Roll, The Pickelback, our PYT Burger, The Calibunga veggie burger and rotating in our hall-of-famers Deep Fried Twinkie Burger, Lasagna Bun Burger and the trashy but tasty Elliot’s Pizza Burger.”

In addition there will be something called a D’oh Nut Cheesteak Burger making its debut in NYC.

We are hoping this restaurant will have better luck than the many previous establishments which opened with high hopes, but did not succeed in the end.

Mural Remembers Ramones

Joey Ramon (Jeff Hyman) headstone. Photo by Tony Fischer

Joey Ramon (Jeff Hyman) headstone. Photo by Tony Fischer

Across from the former location on the Bowery of the famed music venue CBGB artists Solus and Dan (Crash) Matos created a mural to commemorate the debut of the Ramones over 40 years ago there.

The mural depicts the band leader Joey Ramone with bright red boxing gloves clutched together in front of his chest, looking ready for a fight. The non-profit group Little Italy Street Art Project NYC is behind the organization of paintings creation, which was executed within 6 hours on September 3.

Wayne Rada of the LISA Project explained that the fighting position Joey Ramone strikes in the portrait represents the many years of struggle the band had to invest before becoming the household name they eventually became.

“It was pretty cool that the boxing gloves have a symbolic meaning of the struggle,” Rada said.

Solus pointed out on Instagram that in the 22 years the Ramones toured they performed 2,263 times.

CBGBs closed in September 2006 after hosting live music for 33 years. August marked the 41st year since the Ramones first performance there.

The mural can remain for one year until the permit expires, at which time, the rules stipulate, the wall must go back to its “Tawny Rose” color. Rada needs to check with the community every 90 days to make sure there are no problems.

Rada said that word is quickly spreading through social media about the mural, and people have been coming to see it and take photos.

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.

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.”

Two Dangerous Intersections Slated for Rehab on Bowery

Intersections improvementsTwo especially dangerous intersections along The Bowery are on the Department of Transportation’s to-do list to improve safety, visibility and congestion. At Delancey Street a seemingly eternal line of cars push into the lanes which lead to the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges, but the few seconds needed to get to the other side of the intersection are often gobbled up when drivers refuse to yield, despite the law which says they must yield. Drivers turning right off of Delancey onto Bowery are also confronted with poor visibility.

At Spring Street pedestrians must curl in and out of cars which are illegally idling in the crosswalks.

In the five years from 2008 to 2012 27 people were hurt at the Spring Street intersection. The danger at Delancey is even worse, with 87 people injured; 14 pedestrians and 10 on bicycles. There was also one fatal accident at this intersection during that time period.

Delancey is well known as a thrilling street enjoyed only by those who partake in extreme sports and other risky behaviors. Since 2012, however, after the DOT made some improvements at some of the intersections along the street, the statistics have improved for pedestrians and drivers.

The plan the DOT proposes includes the installation of two full time receiving lanes and a bus/rush hour lane along the street. They also will be moving the turn lane at Bowery and Delancey.

Both intersections will get better islands for pedestrians, including some greenery. There will be an 11 second head start for crossers to get to the other side of Delancey and Bowery.  Visibility for drivers at these two intersections will also be improved for drivers turning right onto Bowery.

Learn About the Immigrant History of NY at the Tenement Museum

Learn about the immigrant experience at the Tenement Museum

Learn about the immigrant experience at the Tenement Museum

A visit to the Tenement Museum is a unique experience which will bring the history of the Lower East Side and its surrounding environs to life.

There are three ways of visiting the museum:

•    Visitors can tour the building and explore the restored apartments and businesses of those who lived and worked here at the height of the immigrant experience.

•    Interpreters in costume take on the role of former residents who once inhabited 97 Orchard Street.

•    Get to know the neighborhood up close and personal as you take a walking tour and discover the real Lower East Side and the many ways that immigrants influenced the neighborhood, city and beyond.

A visit to the Tenement Museum will enlighten visitors to the importance and depth of the influence immigrants had on the development of the region and became the foundation of America as we know it today.

The Bowery Revival Has Not Hurt the Area’s Historic Charm

Over the past ten years the Bowery has transformed itself almost unrecognizably from a skid-row, impoverished neighborhood, to a trendy, up-scale destination for artists, tourists and others just exploring the more interesting sites around town.

The Bowery Hotel Today

The Bowery Hotel Today

Just walking down the famed street which the neighborhood takes its name from and pedestrians will see high-brow restaurants, glittery night spots, high-end art galleries, luxury hotels and condos, and the world famous New Museum, all clamoring for your dutiful attention. It is hard to believe, let alone remember, that this street was the home to scores of homeless, alcoholics, addicts and other unfortunates.

Yet, the historic nature of the area has not been lost with the danger and grime. The 18th and 19th century buildings are still standing, lending an aura of authenticity to the surroundings. A poetry club brings to mind the Beat poets who used to gather here, writing love-notes to the neighborhood. A few family-owned businesses, including restaurant supply and lighting shops are still around, reminding us that despite the quick gentrification, the neighborhood still has a soul.

The Bowery of Old

The Bowery of Old

“You feel like you’re in a part of history still,” said real estate agent Larry Carty of Corcoran. “When you step out, you have old-school places along with new institutions. People see the culture and the restaurants as amenities to their spaces.”

Five Years for John Varvatos on The Bowery

John Varvatos

John Varvatos

Taking over the space where the punk rock club CBGB used to be can’t be easy, but it has already been five great years since the John Varvatos Bowery boutique opened, and it seems to be swinging over there.

Last Wednesday the boutique celebrated the five years it has been since April 2008 when Varvatos took over the legendary space at 315 Bowery.

On hand and welcomed by the designer Varvatos was blues musician Gary Clark, Jr. and the soul-rock band Vintage Trouble. All were dressed in perfectly cut John Varvatos suits. The store has often hosted live shows in commemoration and celebration of the history and heritage of the site.