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Billy's Antiques And Props Keeps It Gritty

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Image via Flickr/lchance

To everyone who likes to moan and groan about how the Bowery and surrounding areas aren't "gritty" anymore: you haven't been to Billy’s Antiques and Props! Yesterday, the Times City Section had an interesting article, complete with a photo slideshow, about the flea-market-like operation at East Houston and Elizabeth Streets. Ponytailed owner Billy Leroy believes his shop to be the "...last vestige of the old New York," as the surrounding neighborhood's dangerous reputation has become a thing of the past.

Looking wearily at the Whole Foods on the corner, Mr. Leroy noted that the site was once occupied by a parking lot with a bustling drug bazaar. Pointing to a metal hatch in the median on East Houston Street, he recalled that it had once led to a subterranean homeless community. Mr. Leroy himself experienced what he calls the neighborhood’s “dark side.” One of his employees shot himself in the basement of a nearby bar, and on another occasion two men got into a knife fight in his store. Today, that sort of thing rarely happens in the neighborhood, if it happens at all.
Indeed the tells of gentrification—stroller-pushing mothers by day and packs of frat boys by night—are all about. And though the stabbings and shootings are mostly a thing of the past, one might argue that this is the most frightening chapter to date for the neighborhood. At least this antiques mart keeps it real; thank god for that.
· Between Skid Row and Starbucks [NY Times]