I started the website 98 Bowery in 2008, triggered by the storage boxes unearthed as I moved across Brooklyn. I had first come to Brooklyn in 1989, with my wife and first child, leaving behind the bohemian existence I’d known for twenty years on the Bowery. Looking over these materials another twenty years later brought me back to a time when the East Village was the center of things, and innovations in art and music were happening each day.
In those days, I believed that I was at the heart of the action, partaking in the major cultural transformations. Now, as I reviewed my memories, I was struck by how they diverged from popular accounts that both validated and distorted what I had experienced first-hand. I knew I had to get my perspective out there, using the material I had just found. The entire concept came to me at once—the first step being to register the domain 98bowery.com, after my former Lower East Side street address.
By 2008, the Internet had become the dominant means of accessing information, but the endless material that predated it was only available in fragments. It seemed clear that whoever put up a website would affect the historical narrative. I’m glad to say that this site has had an impact, influencing the stories that circulate about New York in the 1970s and 1980s. Many recollections that had seemed uniquely personal, as well as the three books on the site—Jeffrey Deitch's Lives catalogue (1975), the "Punk Art" catalogue (1978), and ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Gallery (1985)—are now widely referenced.
More than I anticipated, the creation of the website brought changes to my life. Each section has led to renewed contact with old friends and colleagues, whose memories have appeared on the site alongside mine. The posting of the ABC No Rio book was celebrated with a party at No Rio, where I renewed my acquaintance with members of Colab I had known well in the '80s. These interactions led to the creation of Gallery 98, an offshoot of 98 Bowery that makes available for sale some of the vintage art and ephemera covered on the site. While 98 Bowery appealed to those interested in learning about the past, the gallery brought real objects into the present, opening a historical dialogue with enthusiastic fans and collectors.
Virtual reality crossed over into real space in 2012, when 98 Bowery caught the attention of the New Museum, and I was engaged as a lead consultant for the exhibition Come Closer: Art around the Bowery 1969–1989. Later, my research for the site brought me back in touch with staff at the Queens Museum, and led to my co-curating the exhibition Hey! Ho! Let's Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk in 2016.
The site has depended on the work of others beyond myself. Assisting me from the start was web designer Haoyan of America, who has continued to find time to help develop each new section of the site. Others who have worked with me include my assistants, Jonah Wolf and Alison Pierz, and Katherine Michaelsen.