Volume 74, Number 54 | May 18 - 24 , 2005


Dia museum idea is on the right track

About this time last year, tremendous concern was building in some quarters about the future of the Meat Market. The nightlife scene was suddenly booming and residents living around the Meat Market, and a few grandfathered residents residing in the Market itself, were wondering what had hit them.

Meanwhile, the exodus of meat businesses to newer facilities in Hunt’s Point, the Bronx, and elsewhere was continuing.

A plan was hit upon by leading Gansevoort Market activists to try to attract the Flower Market to relocate from Sixth Ave. to the Meat Market. After all, this would be replacing a dwindling market use with another one still going strong. A benefit raised funds for a feasibility study. However, because the Flower Market needs a great deal of ground-floor space, the plan didn’t pan out. Again, the Meat Market’s future seemed uncertain.

But then the proposal to convert the High Line into a unique sort of new park began to gain steam. In turn, the attractiveness of being near the future High Line park generated new, and different kinds, of interest.

Now a proposal for the area has emerged that everyone seems to agree is a good fit. Growing out of the High Line park project, literally, the plan by the Dia Foundation for the Arts for a new museum at the old elevated railway’s southern end strikes us as a potentially magnificent project.

The plan to build a horizontal, low-scale museum on the southern edge of the city-owned Meat Market co-op building, directly adjacent to the High Line, seems really a stroke of genius. Art seems to us a good use for the Meat Market. Artists and art lovers, we think, can appreciate the Market’s gritty ambience. Dia says it wants the meatpackers to stay — partly because it likes the industrial atmosphere, but also to preserve the area’s low-scale character so that their rooftop skylights — a key part of the museum’s design — will indeed have light shining through them.

Dia’s plan does not call for displacing any existing meat businesses. A vacant Meat Market building would be demolished and used for a gallery, while another Meat Market building — with a pared-down meat business currently operating inside of it — would either be renovated or rebuilt, with meat businesses restored to the space after the Dia museum is completed. Dia’s museum itself would look like an old Nabisco factory and blend into the industrial landscape. Though the site’s zoning allows a taller building, Dia is going horizontal, which will surely be appreciated by neighbors in the West Coast apartments.

Of course, assurances need to be made that if Dia leaves, its space won’t be converted to some inappropriate use.

The combination of the High Line and the museum should be something to see. To amble along the High Line, then directly into the museum will be quite an experience — and we’re sure a major attraction of international interest. We’re looking forward to hearing more about the project — and, though it’s still quite early in the process, are already looking forward ourselves to walking down the High Line and visiting the museum. Our hats off to a unique collaboration that is a tribute to truly creative — and community-sensitive — thinking and planning.

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