Bowery Wine Co. Destroying The LES?

by AMANDA MELILLO · June 6, 2008

     Do you remember when the news came out that the Lower East Side has become an endangered historic area due to all the development going on, and the media was worried about that for a whole week before moving on to something else? Do you know whose is responsible? Bruce Willis. No, seriously. Bruce Willis and his right-wing Republicans are ruining the neighborhood.

    Apparently Bruce Willis' Bowery Wine Company is ending Old Manhattan as we know it, rather than the mayoral administration, the influx of developers building high-priced condos and gentrification. So protests and counter demonstrations have ensued, and Page Six has run some items about the kerfuffle. East Villager, John Penley, began by protesting, saying, "We want to show our opposition to the right-wing Republicans opening yuppie wine bars in our neighborhood," which prompted the New York Young Republican Club to hold their monthly meeting there. And then in a profound statement, one young Republican encapsulated the tension underlying gentrification: "Needless to say, we're going to fill his neighborhood whether he likes it or not."

    And there, my friends, you have it in a nutshell. Between the Bowery Wine Company protests and New York Magazine's article about the website Brownstoner, or mostly the underlying rage and fear displayed by the commenters as the "bitter renter" Brooklynites argue with the carpet bagging stroller mommies, it feels like a quiet war is going on. When I was on the Lower East Side talking to a middle-aged woman who has lived here 20 years, she curled her lip and said, "THIS has become a trendy place to live for celebrities? We're right near Chinatown! This isn't how it used to be—I swear, they're ruining this city." (According to many, The Village Voice included, Chinatown is also in danger of shrinking.) And while I'm not going to lie, I love my yuppie wine bar now and then, I'm torn—

    I don't want it to come at the expense of the city. So what would you choose, readers? Wine bars or the character of a neighborhood?

    Oh, and there will be another protest outside the Bowery Wine Company next Friday, which the Young Republicans plan to counter-protest, if you feel passionately about this or have nothing better to do on your agenda. Of the right wingers, Penley says, "They have to show up in suits carrying brief cases so we can tell them apart." Um, kind of awesome.