WNYC's Brigid Bergin takes us to a five-block stretch of the Bowery, from Houston to Delancey streets. The street is still home some century-old institutions like the Bowery Mission and specialized retail districts for restaurant supplies. But in recent years, an influx of new businesses along with cultural destinations are reshaping the neighborhood's economy and streetscape.
A New Life for the Bowery? by Brigid Bergin
The Bowery Mission was founded in 1879 and has been at this location since 1909.
The red doors open to a chapel where services are held daily. When the temperature dips below 40 degrees, the Mission staff opens the space for homeless men to sleep. The black doors lead to the Fellowship Hall, a cafeteria and kitchen that serves hot meals 365 days of the year. The Mission is privately funded and owns its buildings.
Alejandro Romero, 39, came to the Bowery Mission in July. He is a student in what they call their fellowship program. It's a six month substance abuse rehabilitation program for men. The students live on the upper floors and are required to work full time, doing everything from unloading the food trucks to taking out the garbage.
Herb Curruthers, 56, cooks meals at the Mission. He first came to the Bowery as a client 16 years ago after spending 8 years in jail. He's since gone to culinary school and has become a chef.
Here's Herb's story
Bari Pizzeria and Restaurant Equipment at 240 Bowery is one of the largest restaurant supply stores on the block.
Nicholas Carone's father owns the store, and he says he grew up there. Carone says business is down, but the family is renting out an unused storefront across the street to make up the difference. The family also owns the Sunshine Hotel, a single room occupancy hotel above the empty storefront.
The seven-story New Museum opened in December 2007. The project was actually some 20 years in the making. While Soho's once thriving gallery scene has been largely displaced by high end retailers, a new crop of galleries have been emerging on or near the Bowery.
>>Listen to Soterios Johnson's tour of the New Museum, with Museum Director Lisa Phillips.
Across the street from the museum is Green Depot. It's at 222 Bowery in what used to be the city's first ever YMCA. Beatnik writer William Burroughs is said to have had an apartment there in the 1970s.
Green Depot's owner and founder Sarah Beatty says the street's history is part of what attracted her to the neighborhood. Beatty first got involved in green business when she was having her first child.
The store sells a variety of housewares, design materials and cleaning supplies. It's basically a crunchier version of Home Depot.
250 Bowery is supposed to be the future site of a luxury green hotel (sensing a theme here?). But there's no construction at the site right now.
Joseph Ayoub is a senior project manager for Foundations, the company that's managing the construction site. He says the project has faced many challenges. Now with the economy, it's not clear when, or if, the hotel will go up.
The feeling of uncertainty is not unique to the Bowery, but the sense of which direction this main street will go.... returning to its rough and tumble 20th century identity or picking up where developers left off... is what we'll be watching.