Art has a part to play in Market
Ever since the Jeffrey store and Pastis opened in the Meat Market 10 years ago, we’ve keenly watched the ongoing evolution of this unique district. Many Downtown neighborhoods are being transformed before our eyes literally overnight, it seems, but few have changed so dramatically as the Gansevoort Market.
In 1900, Gansevoort Market was home to 250 slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants, jammed together cheek by jowl. More than 100 years later, this number is down to 13.
Following the landmarking of much of the Meat Market in 2003, the area’s morphing into a nightlife, fashion boutique and restaurant district continued in earnest. Today, “Meatpacking” as it is known to the clubbing set, is one of Manhattan’s — and thus New York City’s — main entertainment districts, a destination for those who want to party and partake of nightlife.
Although there are some residents in the Meat Market proper, most are there because their apartments were grandfathered under the area’s manufacturing zoning. Local residents and preservationists adamantly oppose a residential rezoning of the Market, feeling it would bring about another luxury district, obliterating whatever remaining historic character the area may still have.
At the same time, nightlife and business operators hail “Meatpacking” as the ideal playground for their clientele: a 24/7 neighborhood where their patrons can dine, dance and divest themselves of their dollars till they drop — all in a conveniently small and safe area of a few blocks.
Local residents, as well as community board members and preservationists, however, haven’t been pleased with all the changes, to say the least. The Meat Market is now a loud, crowded party zone, and many of its shops and restaurants seem to be more “flagship” locations than anything else — that is mainly for show. Traffic has become a nightmare; the recent Gansevoort Plaza and Ninth Ave. street structures are an attempt to reduce the noisy bottlenecks, but the verdict is still out. The current traffic-calming plan is only temporary, and some modifications are sure to be made to the final plan.
Now, however, two new projects are poised to bring enormous change, and literally revolutionize the area yet again. The High Line park’s first section will open at the end of this year, and the Whitney Museum will open next to the High Line a few years from now. These projects will lend a new, less-hectic spirit to the frenetic Meat Market — a positive addition, in our view.
The Whitney is sure to spawn an arts scene around it, just as the New Museum on the Bowery has done on the Lower East Side, and will likely draw down some of the Chelsea galleries. As one Gansevoort gallery owner observed, the Whitney and an accompanying arts scene will “take the edge off” the Meat Market.
Some are skeptical that art galleries will be able to afford the area’s ever-increasing rents. We hope they can — and that a new diversity and cultured sensibility will be added to the Meat Market’s mix.