Thursday, December 17, 2009

The changing look of the Bowery 
I've usually hung out around the Lower East Side, East Village and Greenwich Village at night during my occasional New York City breaks, and always thought it would be cool and convenient to stay in the heart of the area, so I booked into the St. Marks Hotel in historic St. Mark's Place.
The rooms are small and spartan, but it's hard to beat the price and the location just north of the Bowery. Plus, you can say that you stayed in the same building where the late and notoriously nasty punk rocker, GG Allin, once lived.
But the Bowery and the surrounding neighbourhood has changed a bit since I was last here. There have been two nice additions, but one major and unfortunate subtraction.
The Cooper Union's new academic building just opened this past summer and the environmentally friendly structure is quite stunning. See for yourself:
The other edifice isn't quite as new, but is just as interesting. The seven-storey New Museum (located at 235 Bowery between Stanton and Rivington streets) was designed by Tokyo-based architects and houses a variety of contemporary art. As far as I'm concerned, the building itself is a piece of art:

I'd trade both of these beautiful buildings, however, for the return of a badly missed dive bar, but legendary live music venue: CBGB.
Patti Smith closed the club with a performance in October 2006, and the location at  315 Bowery near Bleecker Street has been converted into a John Varvatos retail store. The place where The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television and many other great bands first made names for themselves is now selling overpriced, trendy, urban chic menswear.
But at least the store has retained some of CBGB's grungy atmosphere and kept some of the old walls — covered in posters, stickers and graffiti — as they were. That still wasn't incentive enough to spend any money in the store. Let's call it a combination of silent protest and me being cheap.
Gentrification can have some advantages in certain cases. I just hope it doesn't totally overtake the Bowery. I prefer live music over leather belts. Here are two shots of what CBGB has become:

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