I don’t know if anyone, you know, noticed, but the south end of Mulberry Street in Chinatown is kinda going through some serious change. Once the epicenter of the Gangs of New York-immortalized Five Points slum, the block below Bayard now looks like a a stripmall with a 12-story middle-finger of a luxury condo in the middle.
The recent developments present two problems: lame street level development and a giant, intrusive condo growing out of the middle of some downright pleasant old school walkups.
First, the condo. I don’t know how this slipped through, but I can’t find shit on this thing – no Curbed posts, nothing in the usually vigilant New York Real Estate media pages. The building’s placard lists Rice Bowl Realty as the owner, and they keep a low profile. All I got searching for them were a few run of the mill safety violations, and middling charges from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for lead paint problems and failure to install fire alarms. NY State seems to think they’re based at 48 Mulberry, but I’ve found documents in my building that list 850 Meeker Ave in Brooklyn as their headquarters. 850 Meeker is also the address of the contractor, 2CC Contractors, and the address listed on the “Marley” construction trucks parked out front. The architect, Jung Wor Chin was about as inaccessible – their website is ‘under construction’ (and has been since Feb. 2007 it appears), but their other buildings don’t look so appealing (third building down).
The obvious disregard for the surrounding buildings (think Blue Building, though admittedly on a smaller scale) inspires no confidence in the kind or quality of apartments/condos it will hold. If the Chinatown new development trend holds, this will be another lux condo (like 123 Baxter and Hester Gardens) that undermines the economic factors (affordable living conditions) that have made Chinatown in Manhattan possible.
The other problem is on the street. The block below Bayard now features these thrilling attractions: a parking garage! A knockoff Yolata/Pinkberry called “YoBerry” (totally original, yah? – it still costs the same as its namesakes) and for the po-po chillin’ between shifts at the station across the park, a Dunkin’ Donuts! (this is not a joke – I see lots and lots of police in this store.) Hopefully the store for sale towards the north end of the block doesn’t portend a continuation of the faux-upscale and chain store trend.
After going on Rob Hollander’s Five Points walking tour (3pm Sundays across the street from the 1 Centre St. civic building), I actually think this area should be protected as a historical landmark. The downtown slum not only provides a backdrop to some remarkable historical figures (Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and the backbone of the Tammany Hall political machine), but it also reveals the central role economic exploitation played in shaping New York City – a history of political/economic power that should be kept in mind as corporate power again threatens to overrun fair housing laws and rent protection laws. The decimation of the slum by Columbus Park and the downtown civic developments makes the remaining remnants of the slum all the more important to hold on to.