BEFORE the Bowery bums and urban blight, before the restaurant-equipment dealers flooded the sidewalks, before lighting stores illuminated storefront windows and before the area became known as a haven for punk rock, one of New York's oldest thoroughfares fell into the cross hairs of real estate speculators. They helped transform it into one of the city's ritziest addresses.
A century later, the speculators are back, and over the past few years the Bowery has undergone another transformation, one that in some ways recalls its heyday even as it risks erasing the markers of its past.
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