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NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.


Entries in The Bowery (8)


Delancey St Between Chrystie St and Bowery


This is the very last block of Delancey before it transforms into the far smaller, and less note-worthy Kenmare Street. Home to the Bowery Ballroom and not much else, the neighborhood is very industrial, cold and unwelcoming.

Since Delancey is a direct route to the Williamsburg Bridge, there's always a painful amount of traffic to be had here. The narrowing of the block past Bowery doesn't help the situation at all. This block hasn't yet succumbed to the full force of redevelopment. Many of the buildings here are old, worn, and not too attractive. You can easily spot some of the larger skyscrapers from the Financial District peeking over the rooftops here, which act as a sort-of beacon.


Bleecker St Between Lafayette St and Bowery


This little segment of Bleecker Street always stands out on a map thanks to it being the terminus for Mulberry, Mott, Elizabeth and Bleecker itself. Yes, Bleecker: Where streets go to die. The block is dark and generally not very crowded, but that's not to say it isn't welcoming. The 6 train stop on Lafayette has more entrances right next to each other than should be allowed. The Bleecker Theater is a small, but cool space on the wester side of the block which houses a variety of shows.

The block is rather sparse, most of the storefronts are either closed, or seemingly private. Even the restaurants closer to Bowery act as if they have something to hide. There's a bike line that runs down the left edge of the street which then cuts in to the center near the traffic light – which, and I'll admit I'm no city planner, seems really dangerous.


Bowery Between Prince Street and Houston St

As the dizzying rate of gentrification continues along the Bowery, it becomes more and more of a spectacle to watch the changes. Many parts of the historically-depressed Bowery are home to specific industries such as lamps or furniture, or in this case commercial restaurant supplies. In the age of online retailers providing everything you could ever imagine, it's strange to see 10 or 12 shops in a row all selling the same basic supplies – yet here they are. But while old grease traps are being power-washed on the sidewalk for resale, across the street strange buildings such as the New Museum sit as if they had always been there.

South of Houston it's still possible to see remnants of the neighborhood's former self, though they're very quickly being turned over to developers. The past decade has seen the whole area north of Houston transformed into something entirely unrecognizable to anyone who hasn't visited since the early 90's. 


5th St Between Bowery and 2nd Ave

Up until recently this street was just another in a series of nondescript blocks which feed from the Bowery deeper into the East Village. That, however, all changed when the 21-Story Cooper Square Hotel barged its way into the neighborhood. Seeming more at-home in iRobot than the East Village the hotel features a design which, unfortunately, looks like a sore thumb in this location (It's very thumb-like in shape). While the new Cooper Union building two blocks to the north seems to echo this architectural mentality, this one just doesn't feel as good.

The hotel seems unsure of its position in the neighborhood. On one hand, it features a large blank wall which has a rotating body of street art (currently Shepard Fairey)- which at least pays homage to the area's roots. However, the building seems to want to act as an oasis from the street - the very street it appeared to be celebrating. The arrangement of the hotel bar's patio is such that people living in the century-old apartment buildings behind it are now assuming the role of zoo animals: Put on display for the upper-class patrons of the Glass Thumb to gawk at. Perhaps worse than the gawking (they have blinds, dontcha know) is apparently the noise. After opening last summer a war of words, music and dirty laundry began - ending in no resolution as the weather began to chill.

The rest of the block is as one would expect: Quaint, chock-full of trees, and just a teeny bit dirty...but not too much. You can feel the community all around you. By the time you exit onto 2nd Avenue, it's as-if you just walked out of some secret neighborhood no one knows about. I'm rather certain that of the thousands of people who traverse this street every weekend as they make their way from the dive bars on 2nd Ave to the Cooper Square patio from hell, hardly any of them notice the humanity all around.


Bowery Between Division St and Canal St 

There's been much lamenting about the gentrification of The Bowery over the past decade or two. However, it seems to me that much of this change is relegated to the short stretch between Houston and 4th Street. Way down here where the Bowery Begins it still seems to retain much of its original character. Lined with endless rows of low-rise buildings, most everything here in bilingual and packed tight. 

This part of The Bowery seems to have changed so little that even mailboxes still have logos that were phased out 15 years ago. This first main stretch has a nearly comical concentration of bank branches- though that dies quickly by the time you pass the Manhattan Bridge. 



3rd Ave Between 11th St and 9th St 

While not much has happened on these particular blocks, recent years have seen seismic changes in the surrounding area. With towering, overwhelming examples of starchitecture shooting up in all directions, the smaller, more humble buildings begin to feel a bit anemic and out-of-place.

One of more noticeable examples is the new Cooper Union building about two blocks south of here. I happen to be a fan of its sheer insanity, though there are many who probably think I'm crazy. Aesthetics aside, as a designer I like it whenever a bold step like this is given a chance (in any medium). With so many different people having a hand in a massive project like this, it's a miracle the building didn't get dumbed down the the "safe" point - the point at which nearly everyone would find it inoffensive. How boring that would be.