Volume 80, Number 9 | July 29 - August 4, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Meat Market evolution

It’s been a dozen years since the Meat Market started the transformation that has completely remade it into the bustling entertainment district it has become today. Few could have predicted the changes back then.

At the high point of what was once a real working Meat Market, there were hundreds of meat businesses packed into the district’s handful of blocks. Companies large and small, packed side by side, used every inch of every “cooler,” or refrigerated locker.  

The Market was still big in the 1970s, but a steady exodus began for more modern facilities in Hunts Point and elsewhere.

Now, a core o

f nine meat businesses remains, all in the city-owned Co-op building, bounded by Gansevoort, Little W. 12th, Washington and West Sts. — one of them having an additional toehold in a nearby converted apartment building.

With high overhead, the meatpackers’ margin of profit is small, according to John Jobbagy, the Co-op’s vice president, who noted, “Nobody’s getting rich in this.”

Due to a deed restriction on the block requiring agricultural or market use, however, the Village’s small Meat Market is here to stay — and we’re glad for it.

The designation of the Gansevoort Historic District some years back ensured that most of the area would retain its distinctive look and character. However, sites that were left out of the landmarked zone have seen new high-rise construction — the Hotel Gansevoort and Standard Hotel — that has altered the district’s dynamic. An office tower with a retail base is being planned on W. 13th and Washington Sts. by the Romanoff family.

The High Line park, which opened a year ago, has brought a tremendous amount of foot traffic to the Meatpacking District. The elevated park has been a phenomenal hit. Construction on the new Downtown Whitney is slated to start next spring next to the High Line’s southern end at Gansevoort St. The Whitney is scheduled to open in 2015, and when it does, it too will have a huge impact. Very likely, it could spur yet another transformation of the Meatpacking District, pushing it more in an arts direction, which would be wonderful for the neighborhood, in our view.

Andre Balazs’s High Line-straddling Standard Hotel has brought new life and vitality to the area, from its bustling Beer Garden to its Boom Boom Room. Things were getting a little “too exciting” for a while there, though, as some of the Standard’s guests were flashing High Line parkgoers through their floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately, that seems to have been a passing fad.

Even in the slick and trendy new Meat Market, there’s still room for some of its classic funkiness, like the Urban Bears, who held their S&M-themed street party in May — though they did agree to switch their date from Columbus Day weekend so as not to clash with the NYC Wine and Food Festival. Bears do adapt.

So does Market standby Hector’s Cafe, located in the Co-op, which has changed its hours from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. to 11 p.m., and is now also open Saturdays, to serve the Meat Market’s new businesses and all its new entertainment-oriented traffic.

Last but not least, the traffic-calming islands in Gansevoort Plaza and along Ninth Ave. will soon be getting a redesign by the Department of Transportation. Local property owners and businesses hope the retooled plazas will be filled with uses and events to draw even more people to the area. Community Board 2 will have a role in reviewing the islands’ designs and their programming to make sure the best result for the area is achieved and balances the interests of everyone affected.

And so the evolution of the Meat Market goes on, with an amazing new park in place, an exciting major new museum on the way and new traffic-calming plazas in the works. Who could have imagined it all a dozen years ago?


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