Close-Up on: The Meatpacking District


Whether it’s 5 a.m., when Washington Street is jammed with refrigeration trucks disgorging their pink carcasses, or at dusk, when the sun is setting over the elevated steel track known as the High Line, the Meatpacking District, a/k/a Gansevoort Market, remains a visual knockout. Here, long, low-rise industrial buildings with their signature metal awnings abut century-old warehouses. The city’s 150-year-old marketplace is still home to about 30 meatpacking companies, but these days the district shares its approximately 12 blocks with a slew of hot designer showrooms and snazzy restaurants, a transformation that’s slowly driving meatpackers to the Bronx. Depressingly, it’s also scared off the neighborhood’s famed transvestite hookers, the “girls” who stalked the cobblestones in stilettos and bright Lycra. Snap!

Boundaries: West 14th Street to the north, Gansevoort Street to the south, Ninth Avenue to the east, and West Street to the west

Transportation: Take the A/C/E or 1/2/3 line to 14th Street and walk west toward the river, or the M14 bus to Ninth Avenue.

Main Drag: The plaza formed by Ninth Avenue and Little West 12th and Gansevoort streets

Average Price to Rent: With its M1-5 zoning, the meat market is almost exclusively commercial, with rents running from $50 to $60 a square foot for new leases. There are at least two legal loft buildings, plus an unknown number of residents living under the radar.

Average Price to Buy: Investors paid $8 million for the building at 29 Ninth Avenue. Former home of Hanover Storage, new tenants include the Swiss furniture company Vitra.

Cultural Institutions: Long Fine Art (427 West 14th Street) showcases New York school painters. Heller Gallery (420 West 14th Street) specializes in the work of glass artists. Long part of the meat market’s cultural life, the legendary sex club Hellfire closed this year after a legal dispute with their landlord, who’s hoping to develop a sushi bar there.

Best Restaurants: Seventeen years after its opening, Florent Morellet’s eponymous French diner (69 Gansevoort Street) remains a critical meat-market destination. Sitting neatly under the High Line, Hector’s Place (44 Little West 12th Street) opens at 2 a.m. for meatpackers and late-night carousers.

Best Bars: No bar better captures the feel of the neighborhood than Rio Mar (7 Ninth Avenue). A tapas restaurant, it has a predominantly Spanish jukebox, a wide wooden bar loaded with bowls of unshelled peanuts, and good sangria. Hogs & Heifers (859 Washington Street) took over from the market’s legendary Howley’s saloon, which operated for 50 years at the address. Containing nothing but a massive bar, a jukebox, and a set of antlers buried under a million brassieres, it’s about as straight-ahead a place as you’ll find to drink.

Happenings: Florent’s annual Bastille Day street festival—once the largest gathering of drag queens over six-feet-tall this side of the Tuileries palace—is now a raucous indoor party celebrating the storming of that notorious prison. In mid June, hundreds of joyful leather boys and girls fill West 13th Street for the Folsom Street East s/m-leather-fetish block party. In a place where the raffish sex industry is fading, it’s always a welcome event.

Community Groups: Lest the market meet the disastrous fate of Paris’s famed Les Halles, a neighborhood coalition of meatpackers, residents, and bar and restaurant owners is mounting a vigorous campaign to landmark Gansevoort Market and to block variances that would allow for residential construction. Restaurateur Florent Morellet believes the neighborhood’s nightclub, meatpacking, and fashion industries have created “a brilliant ecosystem.” Of the inexorable march of the swanky, Morellet says, “You don’t want to stop progress. You just want to channel it as much as possible.”

Green Space: The grass dome known as 14th Street Park is located at the western end of 14th Street.

Famous Residents: Native son Herman Melville worked here from 1866 to 1885. He’d already written Moby-Dick, which was considered a critical and commercial failure.

Local Politicians: City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, State Senator Thomas K. Duane, Congressman Jerrold Nadler—all Democrats

Crime Stats: The 6th Precinct serves almost all of the Meatpacking District and the West Village. As of November 10, it reported no murders, down from one last year; six rapes, down two; 265 robberies, up 15; 84 felonious assaults, down 40; and 253 burglaries, up seven.