The Bowery is the oldest street in Manhattan. Long before the Dutch arrived it was a Native American foot trail, but it has an even more fascinating story to tell. Prior to the Civil War it was the place where Peter Stuyvesant retired to his farm, George Washington had a beer, James Delancey built a house and the Astors expanded their real estate holdings. It continued to be deeply influential throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in the area of arts and culture.
Despite having a positive impact on American culture, the neighborhood also saw very bleak times. When the elevated train was installed along the Bowery in 1878, times grew dark. It cast a metaphorical and physical shadow on the entire street, and men and women sought refuge in darkness instead of light. Cheap flophouses – a few of which still remain today – came in to “serve” the population. Even when the train was removed in the 1950s, it took the Bowery decades to experience economic stability. And eventually, as The Bowery epitomized the grit of Manhattan in the 70s and 80s, Patti Smith rocked CBGBs, beautiful arias streamed out of the Amato Opera house, and Roy Lichtenstein redefined pop art from his loft at Bowery and Spring.
Even though this neighborhood in lower Manhattan hasn’t always been associated with stability and prestige, Pete Armstrong felt called to the neighborhood long before he ever lived in New York City. His interest in serving in New York City began in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2004, when he was managing a coffee shop. One of his friends had recently returned to Michigan after an 18 month stint in New York. Pete had only visited New York once, but enjoyed listening to his friend’s stories. The more Pete listened, the more captivated he was by these conversations and he began to pray about one day serving Christ there, although church planting was not on his radar at the time. As he continued to pray and dream, Pete saw himself at the jazz clubs and museums of New York and training for marathons in Central Park. He began to see himself sharing the gospel with New Yorkers.