Volume 75, Number 8 | July 13- 20, 2005

Photo by George E. Joseph, from The New York Shakespeare Festival Records,

Manolos replace meat, as trend is more trendiness

By Cathy Jedruczek

Hair blowout at Blow Styling Salon, breakfast at Florent Restaurant, shoe shopping at Christian Loboutin, drinks and chocolate truffles at The Double Seven and dinner at The Garden of Ono — the list and possibilities are endless and the Meatpacking District has it all. This year only, close to 20 new businesses have opened up and there are a lot more on the way. The neighborhood, which had 150 meat businesses operating as recently as the 1950s, now has only about 20 remaining — with bars, nightclubs, restaurants and designer boutiques instead on almost every block.

David, Rabin, co-owner of Lotus nightclub on 14th St. and president of the New York Nightlife Association, in an interview with The Villager last year stated that the neighborhood is evolving into an area where one can stay for 36 hours. Asked recently if that’s the case already, Rabin said, “Yes, and getting better — another hotel soon, Dia Center, more restaurants, more very cool one-of-a-kind stores.”

A number of chic and trendy boutiques have opened up recently increasing daytime foot traffic and drawing celebrities who frequent the Hotel Gansevoort or Soho House.

Rebecca and Drew Manufacturing, which custom tailors women’s shirts according to bra size, opened up at 342 W. 14th St.

Earnest Sewn at 821 Washington St. offers both ready-to-wear and custom-made denim with accessories such as knives and luggage. The shop is all about quality, handmade, made-in-America products and carries brands more than 120 years old.

Women looking for comfortable and quality shoes can look for the right pair at Christian Loboutin at the corner of Horatio and Greenwich Sts. The manager, Michael Nitis, while helping a customer find the right size slingbacks, said that the business has been great and that the store does not advertise. “It’s all by word of mouth,” said Nitis. “I guess the girls love the design and comfort. This store is fashionable, upscale and carries one of the most coveted shoes — Manolo [Blahnik], Jimmy Choos.”

And if somebody is looking for equally luxurious lingerie, lounge or swimwear they can find it at Catronia Mackschnie at 400 W. 14th St.

Cutting-edge sports designs are available at newly opened Puma Black Station at 421 W. 14th St.

Women, especially, may be excited about the new concept in beauty introduced by owners of the Blow Styling salon. According to co-owner Julie Klingenberg, the salon is the only one in New York to offer blowouts only — no cut, no color in a “very welcoming, nonarrogant, girly, convenient, luxurious atmosphere.” Klingenberg thought the salon’s original approach to styling fits with the “freshness and uniqueness of a lot of stores and restaurants in the area.” Salon’s clientele is mixed, the co-owner informed, and includes tourists, residents of the Village or people working in the area. Despite a humid and rainy July afternoon Blow’s stylists had their hands full of — hair. Master hairstylist Sasha Ellard advised those who wanted to maintain their dos in humid conditions to give their hair a “bouncy, Victoria’s Secret, sexy look” instead of getting it perfectly straight.

With Giselle Bundchen’s hairdo and new Manolos, any woman should feel ready to hit the The Double Seven. Opened by partners at Lotus, this new bar is described as a refined form of lounging — an alternative to a nightclub. It offers high-end liquors, with freshly squeezed juices, paired with Deauve and Gallais chocolates or cheese from Murray’s Cheese Shop. With a warm, candlelit setting and music — quiet enough to have a conversation — The Double Seven seems like it could well be the next new hotspot of the district (at least until the next one opens).

The Garden of Ono at the Hotel Gansevoort is a new addition to the neighborhood’s array of restaurants. This new venue offers modern and traditional Japanese cuisine and it features a bar and an outdoor setting with a reflecting pool, cabanas and a retractable roof. Ono was brought to the Meatpacking District by China Grill Management, which owns a chain of high-end in several cities across the U.S.

However, with more and more retail and nightlife businesses steadily filling vacancies in the Meat Market, business owners and residents have been finding themselves clashing. Residents living on the edges of the Market and those residing legally in the Market itself continue to feel besieged and their complaints are growing stronger. They are concerned with the noise level and thousands of people swarming the streets at night on the weekends.

“The neighborhood’s concern is that it is not the kind of crowd you want to live around,” said Ivy Jeanne Brown, president of the Gansevoort Alliance, of revealers lining up in front of club One and other popular joints in the area. “It’s a younger crowd, rougher that what we are used to. It’s a crowd that takes over the sidewalk. It’s people who may come after you, if you look at them the wrong way.” Brown, who has lived in the Triangle Building for 20 years, long before the hip Vento trattoria opened in its ground floor, said she felt safer around the transgender prostitutes and sex clubs that once dominated the area than around drunken revelers.

Another resident, a member of the Horatio Street Association and Gansevoort Market Associates, who did not want her name printed said the noise and unruly people are the downside of the development. “I am appalled about the behavior of whoever these people are,” she said. “They think they’re on the Island. Noise keeps us awake till 4 a.m.!”

Rabin, who just opened The Double Seven with his partners from Lotus, said he sympathizes with residents’ issues, but has “no idea why would they fear for their safety. There is no evidence of a ramp up of crime,” he said. “In fact, there is probably less crime here now than when it was hookers, pimps and drug dealers. Now there is activity all day and night and less room for nefarious characters.

Rabin acknowledges that automobile and pedestrian traffic have increased in recent years, but he thinks it’s only one “side of equation.” “The other side is dollars and tourism, huge — tax revenues, jobs, ancillary business.”

But Brown says the community doesn’t find this type of growth favorable and that they don’t want to see more clubs and bars coming to the area. She fears monster restaurants as big as 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, which have liquor licenses, and that if they go out of business, may turn into clubs. She thinks if one business is awarded a license, the State Liquor Authority should wait a while before awarding the next one. She thinks the neighborhood needs time to be able to absorb thousands of people who fill up these huge new places.

Florent Morellet, a restaurateur and Meat Market activist, agrees that there should be a limit to liquor licenses being awarded, but he views the overall changes as positive. He thinks that living in New York, people have to “be prepared for changes, and fluidity is part of the deal.” He sees the neighborhood as diverse and doesn’t want one kind of business to take over. Morellet advocated along with Jo Hamilton, co-chairperson of Save Gansevoort Market, to relocate the Flower Market from Sixth Ave. to the Meat Market but the plan proved unworkable.

Matt de Matt, owner of Gaslight bar at 14th St. and Ninth Ave., is one of the pioneers of the Market’s transformation into an entertainment district. He said it’s really not that loud in the neighborhood, considering all the clubs and restaurants being located so close to each other. He thinks that at least it’s cleaner and safer and that those who complain are few and must be “crazy.” De Matt acknowledged that most places are pricey and pointed out that Gaslight is one of only a few bars where drinks are still priced reasonably. De Matt sees skyrocketing rent prices as the only drawback of the Market’s rapid development.

The future is unpredictable and nobody really knows what will happen in the long run. Some are afraid to speculate. Some see the Meat Market turning into Soho, while others are more optimistic and believe the Meat Market’s flavor — despite all the recent changes — will ultimately be preserved by its recent historic district designation.

One thing is for sure, more changes are on the way. Buddha Bar and another large nightspot, not named yet, are planned to open soon on Little W. 12th St., along with Pizza Bar, a combination of fast food and late-night lounging, at 14th St. and Ninth Ave. Andre Balazs is getting ready to begin construction of his first Standard Hotel in New York, on Washington St. between 13th and Little West 12th Sts.

Almost everyone seems enthusiastic, though, about the reconstruction of the High Line and relocation of Dia Arts Center from West Chelsea to the Market, where it will connect with the end of the High Line. Galleries, a bookstore, a gourmet market or a movie theater are some other things people say they would like to see in the Meat Market.

But some say the direction the neighborhood is going is just fine.

“We’re getting High Line Park and that’s 30 blocks,” said de Matt. “How much do these people want?”

What nobody wants is Starbucks or a chain retail store like the Gap coming in and replacing meat businesses. Rabin says that “if nightlife venues weren’t taking some of these bigger spaces, they would indeed be taken by national retailers, and then we really would have Soho on our hands.”

Brown says that she likes the idea of late-night shopping and that she is not against the nightlife establishments. What alarms her is the lack of planning. Residents have been repeatedly urging the S.L.A. to enforce the 500-foot rule, which requires a public hearing before the authority if a new liquor license application is within 500 feet of three other licensed establishments. But there are more than three bars on some blocks and the rule is only a theory, Brown and other nightlife watchdogs charge.

Rabin thinks that businesses should work together with residents in order to deal with noise, traffic and other issues, because the Market will see more development. “This growth was inevitable,” said Rabin. “Perhaps the speed and the volume were not foreseeable. At some point, people have to recognize that there is nowhere else on the island of Manhattan for these types of businesses to go. Everywhere else, literally, is a true residential or mixed-use district.”

Morellet, who did not foresee such a rapid transformation from a meatpacking district to nightlife district, says he goes along with changes and makes an effort to acclimate. “I came here because I loved the way it was,” said Morellet. “I still think it’s a different kind of neighborhood. There’s always people that will cry and mourn what it was. If one wants to be upset and disgusted, you can. But you should laugh and live with the time and get along with people in the neighborhood.”

Billy Rose Theatre Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Joseph Papp at the Delacorte Theater during its construction in 1961.

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