Close-Up on Clinton (Hell’s Kitchen)


The Clinton real estate market is hotter than Hell’s Kitchen, which is what the old-timers still call the nabe once known for Tammany Hall politicos, Irish bars, and ethnic street gangs. Think West Side Story and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. The diehards in their rent-stabilized fifth-floor walk-ups are duking it out with developers planting Quik-Gro, high-rent high-rises on what seems like every corner. The preservationists, who had Clinton designated a “special district” in 1974, are fighting to the death to hold onto the nabe’s ultimate mix. Suits rub shoulders with blue-collars, actors amble by Latino immigrants hanging out on stoops. Warehouses, garages, and gas stations line avenues while tree-lined streets boast townhouses right beside tenements. But with the new Times Square, host to money firms and yuppie workers, shoving from the east, Chelsea’s gay contingent pressing north, and the revitalized Hudson attracting luxury development on the western fringe, cheap digs may be a thing of the past. Where people used to migrate to Hell’s Kitchen because they couldn’t afford better, now, says William B. May associate broker Robert Clepper, “Clinton’s hip; it’s a primary choice.”

Boundaries: Purists debate whether the southern boundary is 42nd Street or 34th, 57th or 59th to the north, but Eighth Avenue is the eastern boundary and the Hudson River is the western.

Transportation: Take the A, C, or E to 34th Street or 42nd Street, the C or E to 50th Street, or the A, B, C, D, or 1 to 59th Street.

Main Drag: Ninth Avenue: Some long-standing ethnic markets and bakeries are gone, but others remain, and the old Irish and Italian eateries and bars now abut new restaurants, from Thai and Ethiopian to haute American. Trendy bars abound.

Average Price to Rent: Studio, $1000 to $1825; one-bedroom, $1400 to $2600; two-bedroom, $2300 to $3800

Average Price to Buy: Studio, $200,000 to $295,000; one-bedroom, $300,000 to $525,000; two-bedroom, $580,000 to $875,000

Community Organizations: The Clinton Special District Coalition fights to preserve Clinton’s low-rise, diverse character; Housing Conservation Coordinators help tenants with housing issues; the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association covers the blocks from 34th to 42nd streets, and there are many active block associations.

Cultural Institutions: The Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum at Pier 86, Twelfth Avenue and 46th Street. The new Theater Row on 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth, is packed with Off-Broadway houses.

Green Space: Not much. Hell’s Kitchen Park, a sorry little treed playground (Tenth, between 47th and 48th), the nicer DeWitt Clinton Park (52nd to 54th, Eleventh to Twelfth), and a sliver of Hudson River Park with a bike/skater/pedestrian path running by the water.

Landmarks: Port Authority Bus Terminal (625 Eighth Avenue); the Salvation Army thrift shop/warehouse at 436 West 46th Street; and, nearby, McKim, Mead & White’s General Post Office (Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street)

Notable Events: At the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival in May, le tout New York and visitors galore gorge themselves on the streets with local fare.

Famous Residents: Besides the many actors who currently live in the Manhattan Plaza building, screen stars of old dwelled on these mean streets, Alice Faye and George Raft, among others. Back before any of them, Governor George Clinton, DeWitt’s uncle, had land there.

Best Restaurants: Skip the fancy joints on Restaurant Row (46th, between Eighth and Ninth), but do patronize classic French bistro Chez Josephine (414 West 42nd Street) for theater district color; Amarone (686 Ninth Avenue) offers great homemade pasta; Amy’s Bread (672 Ninth Avenue) serves terrific sandwiches and pastries; and Hell’s Kitchen (679 Ninth Avenue) makes inventive nouvelle Mexican.

Best Bars: McHale’s is cheap and seedy (750 Eighth Avenue); at Revolution (611 Ninth Avenue) the post-work yuppie din is deafening, but the food is surprisingly good.

Local Politicians: Councilwomen Christine Quinn and Gale Brewer, state assemblymen Richard N. Gottfried (64th District) and Scott Stringer (67th), State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler—all Democrats

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