Martin Scorsese Trying To Keep His Mean Streets Sleazy

Martin Scorsese has pitched in to the efforts of the East Bowery Preservation Plan in order to keep high-rise developments from taking over the streets that inspired his filmmaker’s eye.

In a letter to Amanda Burden, city planning commission chairwoman, Scorsese called for an end to the development of high-rise apartments and condominiums in the area, urging the commission “to insure that the Bowery remains preserved and intact so its history continues to influence and inspire the upcoming artists of tomorrow.”

The East Bowery Preservation Plan has been enacted to preserve a minimum of eight historic buildings built back in the 1800s, including “Germania Bank building at 185 Bowery and an Italianate palazzo at the corner of Rivington,” The New York Daily News noted.

Scorsese cited the location’s 150-year-history of theater and vaudeville as well, adding, “The high-rise apartment buildings and condos only create more chaos, more disruption and ultimately offer The Bowery up to the elements of conformity.”

“Having grown up on Elizabeth Street, the neighborhood and residents of the Bowery became clear catalysts for turning me into a storyteller,” Scorsese wrote. “Whether it’s Mean Streets or Gangs of New York, the influence of the Bowery — the grittiness, the ambience, the vivid atmosphere — is apparent.”

“Grittiness” was an interesting virtue to cite, but not altogether surprising coming from a director, who created some of Hollywood’s most influential films to never win Best Picture — Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and one of our personal favorites, The King of Comedy — and the one that did — The Departed.

His films often deal with rough characters and the seedier side of life, producing compelling dramas that have scored well with most critics and audiences.

But how much is too much? As Scorsese has proven time and again through his films, adversity and hardship breeds great storytelling, but is that reason enough to forgo progress in favor of “grittiness”?

While the jury is still out on whether Scorsese’s comments will hold any weight, it’s not looking bright for anyone hoping to see the developments end.

Rachaele Raynoff, department of city planning spokeswoman, acknowledged The Bowery’s historic value, but told The NY Daily News current zoning “supports the continued strength of the corridor as an important hub of jobs and businesses.”

At this pace, Scorsese’s past films and maybe his upcoming Gangs of New York television series project could be the best form of preservation these “mean streets” have left.

Do you agree with Martin Scorsese that city planners should leave The Bowery alone, or is it ready for change?

[Image via s_bukley /]