Shabby Chic, Literally
On the Bowery, on the second floor of an ancient flophouse, nine men pay less than $10 a night to sleep in cramped cubicles topped with chicken wire. Half the stalls in their shared bathroom are missing doors, and their halls are lined with spooky rows of empty cubicles whose last occupants either took off or died off.
Directly above them, on the third and fourth floors, stylish young men and women pay $62 to $129 a night for a refined version of the gritty experience below. Their cubicles have custom-made mattresses and high-end sheets. Their shared bathrooms have marble sinks and heated floors. Their towels are Ralph Lauren.
The alternate worlds within 220 Bowery rarely intersect, although the hotel’s flophouse aesthetic is meant to create a “living history” vibe that is “equal parts museum and hotel,” its developers say. One of them, Sanford Kunkel, goes so far as to describe the men below, living in walk-in closets, scraping by, as “an asset to the property.” …
The arrangement recalls “My Man Godfrey,” a Depression-era comedy with a social conscience, in which oblivious socialites race to the city dump to find a “forgotten man” for an elite gathering’s scavenger hunt. Better yet, it echoes a distant Bowery practice known as slumming, in which gaggles of Gilded Age gentry would tour its saloons, opium dens and slums, all for that fluttering thrill of There but for the Grace of God — and the Breaks of Privilege and Birthright — Go I.
The NYTimes also reports the Bowery is seeking a place on the National Register.