Welcome to the sunshine hotel:
South of the Houston Street Whole Foods, right before you reach the New Museum, you’ll find a door on the Bowery labeled, SUNSHINE 245. Up the stairs, above a high-end restaurant serving sophisticated gin and tonics, live 15 artifacts from the good-ol’-days of the Bowery, when it was better known as the rough-and-tumble Skid-Row of NY.
Opened in 1922, The Sunshine Hotel is a one of six Single Resident Occupancy Hotels on the Bowery where a man could find a bed to sleep in and a roof over his head for $4 a night. Smaller than a prison-cell, the four-by-six foot rooms fit a cot and a small space to walk in and out. The ceilings of these cells are covered in chicken wire to prevent the other guests from climbing over. When the Bowery was most notorious, and was the bustling lighting and restaurant supply district, The Sunshine housed over 350 men throughout four stories and across three adjoined buildings.
Today, as the surrounding SRO’s are being converted into hostels or transitional housing shelters, the Sunshine Hotel still stands as it did 30 years ago, however, all but 15 of the cells are empty. The owner is not eager to evict the remaining residents who have achieved permanent residency rights. However, the hotel manager, Milton believes it won’t take more then 5-10 years before the residents dwindle down to 0.
The Sunshine Hotel has been documented in the past. In 1998, David Isay, now the founder of StoryCorps, produced a radio documentary that explored the metropolis of The Sunshine Hotel. Stacy Abramson documented the flophouses on the Bowery and her photographs were published into a book in 2000 entitled Flophouse: Life on the Bowery. In 2002, Michael Dominic followed up with a lively and dynamic documentary that took a look inside the Sunshine and featured some of the men who remain there today when they were aggressive, energetic, and engaged in the lifestyle.
With nowhere else to go, the men are now old and tired, living with the consequences of their pasts. The Sunshine is not the wild place it was 15 years ago. The men struggle with poverty, mental illness, alcoholism, etc. It is important now, that we create a document that illustrates the end of an era. We aim to create a moving portrait of the human condition. The film will ask the questions: what is left for these men? Are they meant to live and die in the Sunshine Hotel? Was that their goal? What can we do as a society to lift up our neighbors and help seal the cracks that these people fell through?