Meatpacking District: Not just for partying
The Meatpacking District earns its glitzy reputation from a wide selection of designer boutiques, swanky restaurants, and upscale bars and lounges, but its art community and numerous public spaces are also increasingly popular.
The neighborhood, also called the Gansevoort Market Historic District, was granted historical status in 2003. In recent years the nabe benefitted from the successful Chelsea Market shopping center and the popularity of the High Line.
A public park located on the elevated tracks of what used to be the New York Central Railroad, the High Line incorporates garden areas, art exhibits and paved pathways in an innovative approach to public spaces. The park has an extremely low crime rate, helping MePa to move away from its less than wholesome past.
In the early 1900s, the area was home to around 250 meat markets and slaughterhouses. A century later, five remain, according to area experts, including Weichsel Beef Co. and DeBragga & Spitler. They are all housed in the Gansevoort Meat Market co-op, built in 1949.
The nightlife scene exploded here in the 1970s. However, the industrial area also became a hotbed for illicit activity at (now closed) clubs like Hellfire Club and the Mineshaft.
Despite — or perhaps because of — MePa’s past, the neighborhood saw a major transformation from seedy to splashy in the 1990s when young designers began opening boutiques.
Nowadays, the district is a shopaholic’s dream. Popular retail spots include the New York flagship stores of high-end international designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Alexander McQueen as well as smaller boutiques such as Owen, Elizabeth Charles, and Carlos Miele.
Design studios and art galleries are abound as well, fostering the area’s growing artsy feel.
The Heller Gallery and Milk Studios will be joined by a major museum come 2015 when the Whitney Museum moves to its new headquarters at the south entrance to the High Line.
In addition, nary a night owl could complain about the Meatpacking District’s proffering.
Come sundown, the glamorously dressed can be seen headed for a bite to eat at Del Posto or SEA followed by a night of dancing at Le Bain, STK, or Cielo.
The very active culture scene helped the Meatpacking District become a residential hotspot.
According to Jennifer Miller, a Corcoran vice president and licensed real estate broker, the Meatpacking District’s market is hot due to its “broad appeal,” citing the High Line and the conveniently located shopping as big draws.
“The Meatpacking has gone through a transformation, with the restoration of architecture and the preservation of the area, and it’s a highly desirable area to buy in,” Miller said. “It’s a destination spot, for both people who live in New York and elsewhere."
She added: “I think we’ll continue to see the neighborhood evolve.”
The Meatpacking District can be found between West 16th Street to the north and Horatio Street to the south. Eleventh Avenue is its westernmost boundary and Eighth Avenue is the eastern border. To make it easier, think the area between Chelsea Market, the High Line, Jackson Square and Horatio Street.
This pedestrian-friendly area is perfect for strolling, while bicyclists may have a harder time thanks to the many cobblestoned streets.
Despite that, numerous bike racks are located below the High Line.
Though no trains run directly into the Meatpacking District, the neighborhood is not that large. All of the fun of the Meatpacking District is just a quick walk from the 8th Avenue L and 14th Street A/C/E stops.
M11, M14A, M14D, M20 (some walking involved)
Jefferson Market Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas
-- Corlears School, 324 W. 15th St.
-- Notre Dame School, 327 W. 13th St.
Thanks to the efforts of the 6th Precinct, which covers the area, overall crime in the district has declined. However, while the area is a far cry from the seedy ’60s, the Meatpacking District still ranks high for sexual assault charges.
According to the NYPD CompStat report, from 1990 to 2012 the precinct saw an 85.7% decline in murder and 89.7% decline in robbery, while reported rapes increased 40%, from 10 to 14 incidents.
76 Ninth Ave. (between 15th and 16th streets)
Spice Market New York, 403 W. 13th St.
Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten dishes out Southeast Asian street food family-style in a highbrow, glamorous establishment filled with antiques and artwork. Come for the curry (and short ribs and spicy Thai slaw), stay for the ambience. 212-675-2322.
Colicchio & Sons, 85 10th Ave.
Another restaurant from a famous chef, Colicchio & Sons was founded by — you guessed it — Tom Colicchio, head judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” As part of the well-regarded Craft group, this New American restaurant serves up Italian classics with a twist. 212-400-6699.
Hector’s Café, 44 Little West 12th St.
When looking for cheaper eats in the Meatpacking District, head to Hector’s Café. Barely changed since its 1949 opening, this spot is great for a low-key quick bite. Traditional diner fare like omelettes, deli sandwiches and salad platters should quell your appetite before (or after) a night of partying. 212-206-7592.
The Standard Biergarten, 848 Washington St.
Enjoy sipping a cool brew while munching on German snacks like pretzels and currywurst at the friendly, outdoor Standard Biergarten, located beneath the High Line and in the Standard Hotel. Choose between a delicious German beer or a cocktail from their full bar. Though the large space can seat 200, on especially sunny days and weekends the spots at the communal benches fill up quickly, but you can wait it out while playing a game or two at one of the ping pong tables. 212-645-4646.
PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the Dream Downtown Hotel, 355 W. 16th St.
“Hard to get into, easy to enjoy” should be the motto of this spectacularly chic lounge. While hotel guests have unlimited access from 5 to 9:30 p.m., the doorman gets the final say after-hours. The panoramic views, the unspeakably delicious drinks and the classy clientele are worth a couple tries at the door. 212-229-2511.
Ara Wine Bar, 24 Ninth Ave.
This relaxed wine bar prides itself on a wine list that satisfies every palate. 212-242-8642.
Ports 1961, 3 Ninth Ave.
The only East Coast location of this high-end boutique, visiting Ports 1961 is an experience in itself. Located in a loft-like space designed by Michael Gabellini, the luxury clothing store offers a fresh-off-the-runway women’s collection by creative director and designer Fiona Cibani and men collections from Ian Hylton. 917-475-1022.
Yoyamart, 15 Gansevoort St.
A great destination spot after a day at the High Line with the little ones, Yoyamart markets itself as a “family-friendly design store.” Yoyamart has an eclectic selection ranging from cultish collectibles like UglyDoll dolls and Tokidoki toys to funky children’s apparel from international designers. 212-242-5511.
Owen, 809 Washington St.
This boutique store sells both men’s and women’s clothing collections from about 30 sought-after designers. Opened by FIT grad Phillip Salem in May 2012, Owen showcases impressively culled high-end pieces in a quietly glamorous store. The friendly staff will be more than willing to help you pick out an outfit. 212-524-9770.
The High Line, from Gansevoort St. to West 34th St. (between 10th and 11th avenues) A highlight of the area for both tourists and locals alike since June 2009, the mile-long High Line serves as a combination public space and park.
Constructed on an elevated rail line, the High Line provides an excellent view of both the Hudson River and the city skyline and boasts sustainable landscaping in keeping with the local environment. Scope the scene while reclining in a wooden lounge chair overlooking the river, by jogging on the concrete paths, or checking out one of the many art installations. 212-500-6035.
Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave. Located at the dividing line between the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, Chelsea Market has a plethora of specialty gourmet markets, retail stores and popular restaurants. While meandering through the brick-walled building, which was originally the home to the Nabisco factory, snack on freshly baked goods at Amy’s Bread or Ruthy’s bakery, check out the summer collection at Anthropologie or Italian imports at Buon Italia or pick up takeout at Friedman’s Lunch or the recently reopened Lobster Place. 212-243-6005.
White Columns, 320 W. 13th St. The artsy Meatpacking District features many art galleries, with White Columns, a not-for-profit exhibition space, among them. Since its opening at this location in 1998, White Columns has displayed the works of numerous renowned artists. The gallery is hosting a benefit exhibition and auction with works from Terry Winters and Elizabeth Peyton, among others, until May 18.
TAKE A TOUR
The group Foods of New York Tours walks you through Chelsea Market and the High Line and ends with a tour of the streets and some restaurants of the Meatpacking District. For more information on the three-hour tour, call ticketing company Zerve at 212-913-9964.
In August 2008, the City Planning Commission approved an expansion project for the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The Whitney, currently located on the Upper East Side at Madison Avenue and 75th Street, will move to a new space in MePa on Gansevoort Street at the southern entrance to the High Line. Construction on the 200,000-square-foot museum began in May 2011 under Italian architect Renzo Piano’s designs, which include 13,000 square feet of rooftop exhibition space.
The project is slated for completion in 2015.
Q&A with Lauren Danziger
On why she, and everyone else, loves MePA so much
Lauren Danziger is the executive director of the Meatpacking District Improvement Association, which formed in 2010.
Here, she discusses the work of the nonprofit and what’s happening in the area.
What does the MPIA do?
We have several goals. First, we want to elevate and showcase the brand of the Meatpacking District. We are more than nightlife, though we are very proud of the nightlife as well. This area has a fun and creative dynamic — from food and drinks to fashion and art. Our other goal is to provide a platform for businesses to communicate with residents and customers and to support the marketing efforts of these businesses.
What are some recent changes in the neighborhood?
The High Line brought a whole new dynamic and directs foot traffic, as will the Whitney when it opens in 2015. We always were and will continue to be a flourishing neighborhood.
So you have seen an increase in foot traffic from the High Line?
On any given weekend, there are 3,000 people crossing Gansevoort. There is an incredibly robust business community, and good amount of foot traffic in our public spaces.