It used to be the Bowery was the last place anyone wanted to be caught dead in New York—quite likely because you could wind up dead on skid row. But as it has become the locus of over-the-top downtown development in recent years, nostalgists and preservationists have joined forces to try and preserve the area. Even Assembly Speaker and local representative Shelly Silver has expressed an interest to seeing the Bowery stay the same. The state has finally come through and given the historic byway a boost, though it may be too little, too late.
The State Register of Historic Places has added the Bowery to its list, according to DNAinfo, and that is an important step toward national recognition. The only problem is, both lists offer no formal protections, just plaques—the Bowery has made half a dozen “endangered lists” in half as many years—all the while more and more crazy developments are planned. Only the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission can take action, and it has protected a handful of buildings in the area but does not seem willing to create a whole district. (It got an incredible amount of pressure for proposing an East Village tenement district, the response basically being, “What’s there to save?”)
Regardless, the preservationists are thrilled with the registry:
“The Bowery nomination is unique—it not only recognizes the architecture and cultural history of the street, but it acknowledges the earliest planning history of New York,” said historian Kerri Culhane, who wrote the Bowery’s 171-page nomination, in a statement.
“By extension, the Bowery nomination should be used as a planning tool to help guide better planning, zoning and contextual infill on this vibrant and dynamic thoroughfare, which continues to make history today.”
“It’s hard to believe that a case had to be made for the significance of one of our most historic streets and all of the folklore that surrounds it,” said Two Bridges president Victor Papa.
“This isn’t just Lower East Side history—this is national history. It is now undeniably clear that the Bowery plays a central role in the canon of American history.”
They’d be crying in their beer, if Mars Bar hadn’t already closed.