East Village blogs are atwitter with news of a 3-year construction overhaul of East Houston Street. Locals can expect widened sidewalks, new medians, bike lanes and trees. But will the strip's noisy, dusty beautification hinder its gentrification?
First of all: crap. I live a block from the affected area, which stretches along Houston from the Bowery to the East River. I also remember the misery brought upon the western half of Houston Street when it underwent similar cosmetic surgery that just wrapped up. As if the constant honking horns and drunks invading the Lower East Side every weekend weren't noisy enough, I can now add jackhammers and rising scaffolds to the mix.
But at least I don't have a business at risk. As I've noted before, East Houston is awash in high-profile new projects that have given the street a previously unimaginable gloss. Bowery and Houston in particular has become a hub of a sort of hyper-gentrification that reached a fever pitch yesterday with the opening of Keith McNally's Pulino's. And it's now the starting point, the ground zero of the Houston Street reconstruction.
Now, Pulino's will be thrown into the interminable chaos and fraught nerves (of neighbors, developers and random passersby) that accompany every major construction project in New York City. More obviously, it's much blogged-about exterior just might be hidden from view by scaffolds or dust bowls or giant orange cones and manhole netting on the street. Whole Foods and DBGB (not to mention standbys like Yonah Schimmel and Katz's) will also be in the thick of things.
Come the project's hoped for completion in 2013 (so, 2025 if we're lucky), East Houston will be more respectable and welcoming than ever. But for now, some literal grit is coming back its way.