Hanging in there, real Meat Market not cooked yet
By Lincoln Anderson
Change is going on all over the Meat Market, but some things stay the same — for the most part. That is, namely, the meat businesses.
Despite the fact that their now-small numbers continued to shrink over the past year, a hardy core of meat businesses continue to hang on in an area that has become the Meatpacking District more in name than reality. This year even saw the first annual Greenwich Village Veggie Pride Parade — the route for which started dangerously close to Downtown’s wholesale meat mecca.
One notable change is that three out of four of the meat business tenants in James Ortenzio’s building at 837-843 Washington St. are now gone: Bob Wilkins of Lamb Unlimited retired, and Walmer and R &W did not get lease renewals. However, around the corner, Daily Meat is still operating.
Eight meat businesses remain in the city-owned Meat Co-op building on the block bounded by Gansevoort, Little W. 12th and Washington Sts. and Tenth Ave., and have more than five years left on their lease. The property has a deed restriction for agricultural market use.
Also still left are Interstate’s poultry operation and Atlas, both on W. 13th St. in properties owned by Michael Romanoff and his sons, Weichsel, on West St. in the West Coast apartments building, and M & W ground beef on W. 14th St.
In a telephone interview last week during one of his typically busy days, John Jobbagy, vice president of the Meat Co-op, said they are all just trying to keep on with their business amid the Market’s hubbub and transformation. The Co-op is fine with the Whitney Museum building a new facility on the Co-op block’s south side, he said, though it requires a zoning modification.
“It’s the city’s property and we support whatever their plan is for it, and it seems to be a very good plan,” he said.
Asked his thoughts on the quirky Gansevoort Plaza “street structures” that have been the subject of so much debate, Jobbagy declined comment, noting, “That’s not the meat section anymore. The meat section is confined to Washington St.; it’s a block or two. Fifteen years ago, it was five to six square blocks. The late ’90s, it changed a little bit. In the 2000s, it changed a lot. And in recent years, it’s really been changing.”
How about the effect of the new Standard hotel?
“Unknown,” Jobbagy said. “I’m not an urban planner. We’re just meat guys. They might hang out at the hotel — not really be seen — and then hit the area at night.
“We all have businesses to run. It’s not a playground to us,” he said. “It’s hard work. It’s very competitive, like all businesses. Fuel costs are affecting everyone who uses trucks.”
The High Line runs right over the Co-op and, thus, so will the High Line park.
“The High Line’s great,” Jobbagy said. “It’s going to be a great amenity for the city. It’s above us. It doesn’t interfere with us.”
At that, Jobbagy said he had to run: His phones were beckoning with customers calling to place orders for meat.
As for what Ortenzio will do with his property, it’s not known. He did not return a call for comment. Three years ago, a Web posting by a real estate broker for Ortenzio marketed a new, 60,000-square-foot building planned at the Washingon St. site — for which a movie theater had reportedly already committed — to potential retail tenants. Ortenzio subsequently downplayed the posting, saying it was just the broker “speculating.”
Though Ortenzio admitted at the time: “Actually, it’s an idea that I had. It’s a concept.”