West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 18 | October 3 - 9, 2007

The Square’s lines are not straightforward

By Josh Rogers

I work in Hudson Sq. or at least I say I do. But I don’t actually say it — mainly because many New Yorkers have never heard of it, and some that have don’t believe it exists. Why bring confusion or an argument to a party? The truth is I feel I work in Hudson Sq.

Donald Trump and his partners I guess would disagree, since the 45-story condo-hotel they are building on my block has Soho in its name. They’re on Varick St. and I’m one block east on Sixth Ave. — so if they’re in Soho, then so am I. But I’m not.

When I cross Sixth Ave. and its six traffic lanes, walk through the narrow plaza between Spring and Broome Sts., cross the three-lane service road to get to the west side of Sixth and The Villager/Downtown Express office, I feel like I have left Soho.

People with architectural degrees could probably give me jargon to explain the differences in building design as you walk toward the Hudson River, but that explanation would be too technical and more importantly, it would be incomplete. The “feeling” you get walking the streets is the most valid way to determine boundaries.

As you walk east of Sixth in Soho, the fine restaurants are bunched together, stores draw shoppers from all over the city and the world, and sidewalks are filled with vendors selling tee-shirts and art.

In Hudson Sq., there are good restaurants too, but they are more spread out, as are the retail spaces when they are filled. Too many are vacant. Save for the friendly drinkers hanging out of the Ear Inn on a cool summer evening or a line outside Don Hill’s club, sidewalk space is not a commodity in high demand in Hudson Square. The relative scarcity of retail makes you notice the industrial-looking buildings. There’s also the new condo buildings and streets dominated by Holland Tunnel traffic.

It’s laid-back, but congested. It feels like a different part of the city. It is.

Feeling is subjective, so yes, Trump and others are free to claim the neighborhood does not exist or that it begins west of Varick St. or perhaps Hudson St.

Our papers of course believe it’s a real neighborhood. Not only are we devoting a whole section to it, we have been calling the area Hudson Sq. for over four years. South Village, West Soho or North Tribeca just don’t capture it — Hudson Sq. is different than each of those neighborhoods.

Square resisters say the name is just a creation of Trinity Real Estate. Trinity executives are promoting the name, but they’re not the only ones. David Reck, a resident, and a few of his neighbors founded Friends of Hudson Square about a decade ago to stop a nightclub from opening. Reck said it was a lot better than a Tom Wolfe idea he had heard – WeVar, or west of Varick.

“I thought that was the wimpiest, lousiest name going,” Reck said.

The ’hood’s western border is indisputably the river, but its other boundaries are open to debate. That’s no different than other Downtown neighborhoods. Where’s the eastern border of Tribeca or Chelsea? There is no consensus.

The Square’s northern border is probably somewhere between Houston and Morton Sts. Many would say Canal St., the undisputed beginning of Tribeca, must be the southern border of Hudson Sq. But why can’t neighborhoods overlap?

The northern part of Tribeca and Hudson Square do share a similar feeling, and residents on both sides of Canal have worked together on many issues, including the successful fight to reclaim Canal Park.

A purist would say only Tribeca is south of Canal. So Mr. Purist, who gets Canal Park smack in the middle of the street? Let me know when you tell one of the neighborhoods that you’re taking it away.

Community board calendar Oct. 3-11


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