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New York City's New Downtown

Lower Manhattan at dusk, as seen from the New Museum, on the Bowery.

Photo: Andrea Fazzari

Key Moments in the Rise & Fall (& Rise) of Downtown New York

1651: Peter Stuyvesant buys the Manhattan farm (or bouwerij) that gives the present-day Bowery its name.

1850’s: Bohemians—actual Bohemians, along with other Eastern Europeans fleeing the 1848 revolutions—settle the Lower East Side.

1870: The city’s first openly gay bar, the Slide, opens on Bleecker Street.

1902: A Polish immigrant family pays $4 a month for a 300-square-foot apartment on Delancey Street. A century later, a graphic designer shells out $2,500 a month for the same space.

1960’s: Robert “My Way Is the Highway” Moses plots to ram a six-lane expressway through SoHo. Wanker!

1967: Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, on Lafayette Street, opens with the world premiere of Hair.

1974: The band Television plays the first notable rock show at CBGB, paving the way for Patti Smith, Richard Hell, the Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads.

1982: NYC’s Loft Law finally allows residential use of former commercial/industrial properties, giving Downtown artists a much-needed legal footing.

1984: Bright Lights, Big City glamorizes coke-fueled Downtown nightlife, sets stage for eventual invasion of TriBeCa by young bankers who only saw the movie.

1997: Balthazar opens, hardly anyone notices. “Table for two at eight this Friday? No problem!”

2001: Guggenheim Museum SoHo closes; becomes a Prada store. Designed by Rem Koolhaas. But still.

2007: Opening of the New Museum, the first-ever art museum to be constructed from the ground up in Lower Manhattan.

2009: The High Line debuts to wild acclaim, with would-be visitors queueing up for wristbands. (Some mistakenly believe it’s a club.)


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