“UUGGHH”: Mysterious, graffiti-covered New York City landmark likely to go condo

Architecture Art East Preservation
Screengrab of HOTTEA's work at 190 Bowery. (Screengrab from HOTTEA video)

Screengrab of HOTTEA’s work at 190 Bowery. (Screengrab from HOTTEA video)

A developer has finally gotten his hands on one of Manhattan’s most intriguing and desired properties: 190 Bowery. The six-story Renaissance Revival building opened in 1898 as a branch of the Germania Bank, but had been the private home and workspace of photographer Jay Maisel since 1966. Back then, he bought the building for $102,000 and held onto it for decades as property values skyrocketed in Nolita. For that reason, 190 Bowery has become a beloved, graffiti-covered piece of New York nostalgia, defying gentrification as everything else around it adapted with the times. But that’s about to change.

The exterior of 190 Bowery. (Flickr / changsterdam)

The exterior of 190 Bowery. (Flickr / changsterdam)

190 Bowery. (Flickr / Jeffrey Zeldman)

190 Bowery. (Flickr / Jeffrey Zeldman)

In September, the New York Times reported that prolific art collector and developer Aby Rosen had picked up the landmarked property as part of his firm’s recent “Manhattan buying spree.” The purchase price for 190 Bowery was not revealed, but in 2008 it was believed to be valued somewhere around $50 million. Rosen told the Times that it took him six months to finally convince Maisel to hand over the property, which apparently doesn’t have heat. According to New York Magazine, which visited 190 Bowery back in 2008, the home “feels like a dream world, or a benign version of the vast hotel in The Shining.”

If Maisel played the long-game on 190 Bowery, then Rosen did just the opposite. The Commercial Observer reported that Rosen’s company, RFR Holdings, is already trying to flip the property. Whatever happens next at 190 Bowery, it will likely include expensive condos, dooming the building’s graffiti to be power-sprayed into oblivion. Bowery Boogie spotted a rendering (below) of just that on the website of real estate company’s Massey Knakal.

But before 190 Bowery gets its deep clean, artist Eric Rieger, known as HOTTEA, decided to add one more creative mark to the building’s facade. As Gothamist reported, he recently slotted wood letters into the building that literally spells out exactly how he feels about the sale: “UUGGHH.”

Rendering of a revamed 190 Bowery. (Courtesy Massey Knakal)

Rendering of a revamped 190 Bowery. (Courtesy Massey Knakal)

Related Stories