Move over Brooklyn! New York’s Meatpacking District is on its way to becoming the coolest neighbourhood in the city.
To feel the pulse of New York City there is no better place to be right now than in the historic Meatpacking District (MPD). Also known as the “Far West Village,” this neighbourhood is a dynamic mix of boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars, with the convergence of the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art at the epicentre.
Extending west from the Hudson River to Hudson Street, and bordered by Chelsea in the north and the West Village to the south, the Meatpacking District is a synthesis of Old World New York and Manhattan glamour. Although there are only a handful of working meatpacking plants left, the area’s industrial roots can be seen in the well-preserved brick buildings that line streets paved in Belgian Block.
“The district is exceptional and vibrant, full of contrasts that keep it both visually and experientially interesting,” says Lauren Danziger, executive director of the non-profit Meatpacking Business Improvement District (BID).
“It’s a true 24-hour neighbourhood with meatpacking overnight, lots of office and retail businesses during the day, and night life into the wee hours.”
From meat to marvels
In its heyday, at the turn of the last century, there were more than 250 meatpacking plants in the area. Prosperity eventually gave way to decades of decline, and it wasn’t until the ’80s, when artists seeking cheap rents moved in and the Meatpacking District was set for a comeback.
By the ’90s, tech companies, and upscale retail were following in the artists’ footsteps. Celebrity high heels navigated the gritty streets and exclusive nightclubs vetted line-ups of hopeful entrants.
“The evolution of the Meatpacking District has been entirely organic,” notes Danziger. “Other areas struggle against the waves of change that are inevitable in NYC but this district embraces change, which is part of what makes it real,” she adds.
Walking the high line
Since the opening of the High Line in 2009, the area has drawn millions of new visitors. The elevated park follows an old rail line that starts at Gansevoort Street and runs north to west 34th, straddling layer upon layer of NYC architecture. It has given people a fresh perspective on the city and most notably in the Meatpacking District.
When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to the community in 2015 and anchored itself to the base of the High Line, things changed exponentially for the neighbourhood. The sculptural glass monument, by architect Renzo Piano, is a magnet for tourists and residents.
On a sunny day, the adrenaline of the crowds is palpable, as people spill out onto museum’s balconies and turn out in the hundreds to walk the High Line.
Despite the density of the Meatpacking District, it is still possible to escape the masses and live like a local. There are countless places to discover in this ever-changing neighbourhood, be it a small gallery, a bookstore or favourite coffee shop. And there is (almost) always an empty park bench along the Hudson with great views of the Manhattan skyline.
Picks of the pack
In the Gansevoort Market you’ll find everything from fresh produce to trendy ice cream. There is little trace of the slaughterhouse days unless you count The Meatball Guys and their gourmet fare. gansmarket.com/purveyors
The Wild Son
Tucked under the entrance to the High Line, this welcoming vegetarian-friendly bistro serves up fresh ingredients that are both healthy and delicious. An unassuming gem with river views. thewildsonnyc.com
A local favourite since it opened in the MPD in 2011, Kava is a café by day, offering a limited selection of excellent sandwiches and toasts. It turns into a wine bar at night with a tasting menu. kavanyc.com
Historic Pier 54
The remnants of the old pier and its impressive steel archway are where Titanic survivors disembarked from the rescue vessel. They stayed at the nearby Jane Hotel, now a boutique establishment. pier54.com
Text by Karen MacKenna Photos by Camilo Fuentealba
This article is published in the March 2017 issue of Blue Wings.