A Floating Population
April 14, 2014 6:07 PM   Subscribe

"81 Bowery - one of the last standing lodging houses in New York City has been home for more than a generation of immigrant Chinese laborers who work at construction sites and kitchens throughout Chinatown. Today, dozens of individuals are left sharing the fourth floor - each occupying a 64-square-foot cubicle."

Annie Ling spent four years photographing Manhattan Chinatown, documenting the lives of local residents and the spaces they live in.

81 Bowery
Shut in
Floating Population

The photos are currently being shown at the Museum of Chinese in America. [via Curbed]
posted by pravit (10 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

there are like tens of thousands of people in hong kong living like that permanently.
posted by facetious at 6:51 PM on April 14, 2014

this sort of thing isn't dead, they had to dress it up in a nice sport coat of "new, futurey, and affordable!" and put on some dress-sweatpants of "For tech workers and yuppies too!"

yep. "kitchens on every floor!"

They've taken the old slumlord space-dividing tactics, and built new buildings around them. but they have wifi and they're all "modern" looking!

I used to live in a place not all that different from what's shown in the first photo, for more than a year actually. Everywhere you go the city you're in wants to condemn them and get rid of them for various reasons and because the optics of them aren't great. But apparently, if you dress up the same thing in its sunday best and charge a lot more it's perfectly acceptable.
posted by emptythought at 7:05 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

But apparently, if you dress up the same thing in its sunday best and charge a lot more it's perfectly acceptable.

From reading the articles linked on the developer's site, it looks like the "apodments" average about 130 square feet, with some fancy loft ones about 400 square feet. They found a loophole in the zoning laws and they are running with it as far as they can, and it seems like there is real demand (as well as push back from neighbors concerned about parking).

But I'd definitely say that there is a difference between that and a bunch of 64 square foot cubicles that don't meet fire and safety codes. Both are dense, but one crosses the line into slumlord and the other doesn't.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:36 PM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah. It's a lot easier to pass laws to forbid people from cramming in to tight accommodations than it is to create better conditions for people. If there were better living quarters available, I think the people who resort to living at 81 Bowery--or, for that matter, the new futurey apodments--would have already left.
posted by alexei at 10:58 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in one of the "apodments." It's only marginally more expensive than renting a room in a house in Seattle. All my stuff fits within 160 sqft, so it seems like a sweet deal to me.
posted by seiryuu at 11:44 PM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a business directly across the street from that building. I can see my building in a couple of the photos. Yes, it was condemned. There were lots of happenings on that block. A Windham hotel was built on the corner (used to be the Rosemary Theatre when I was a child) and the bellhops terrorize the people who live in the area. When the hotel was being built, it caused a great deal of damage in the neighboring buildings. Some of which were torn down. This building was one of the buildings the city checked and found conditions that were unsafe.
posted by Yellow at 4:58 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I actually live about a block away from 81 Bowery and had no idea it was a lodging house nor that it was condemned. I can see the new hotel from my apartment window, although I don't think I've ever run into one of the bellhops. What are they doing to terrorize people?

Seems lots of buildings in Chinatown are being torn down to build hotels - what used to be Danny Ng's place on Bowery was demolished recently.
posted by pravit at 6:30 AM on April 15, 2014

What's the difference between lodging housing and eight people sharing a one bedroom flat? The practice doesn't go away. Instead of having a known landlord intermediary responsible to city housing officials, these individuals will be left to the whims of groups sharing the same living space and their anarchist rules. I much prefer the former.
posted by xtian at 7:53 AM on April 15, 2014

This is slightly a self-link but we're doing an event with Annie Ling (who is very cool) in NYC in mid-June. She'll be showing her photographs with novelist Jean Kwok, who used to work in the garment industry before Chinatown was deindustrialized. And if you're generally interested in Asian American enclaves in New York, check out Open City.
posted by johnasdf at 8:31 AM on May 5, 2014

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