Once a nefarious playground for street thugs of various ethnicities, Hell’s Kitchen is now a hot spot for foodies, theater aficionados, tourists and real estate investors.
It’s far along from the days when Irish, African American and Hispanic street gangs with names like the Gophers and the Gorillas roamed, violently clashing. But its gritty name remains, adored by many residents and resilient to past proposals aimed at rebranding it as Clinton.
How this neighborhood earned its sinister name is still unclear — some say it’s because of the gangs, others say it was a particular tenement building.
Another group tells a story of a rookie cop who might have played a part in coining it. Despite its unclear origins, Hell’s Kitchen is also known as Clinton and Midtown West.
During the 18 and 1900s warehouses, tenement buildings, slaughterhouses, lumberyards and factories dominated. These days, culture meets convenience, as it is home to Theater Row on 49th Street between Ninth and Dyer Avenues, Restaurant Row on 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, and the scenic piers overlooking the Hudson River. Its proximity to Times Square, Central park and Lincoln Center provides a plus to residents and visitors.
And it is situated in a prime location for transportation, conveniently close to trains, buses and the Lincoln Tunnel.
It is all of these things that attracted Corcoran broker Gabriel Bedoya to reside there for the last 18 years.
“It’s very neighborhood-oriented and it’s a pleasant experience. Storeowners get to know you, you get to know the people — those conveniences have been there all along,” he said.
He noted that the diversity of living quarters, from mid rise walk-ups, which retain the nabe’s history, to newer high rises cater to differing budgets. The area is known for retaining its residents.
Many have lived there for generations and often Bedoya’s clients who already live in Hell’s Kitchen and opt to stay, often upgrading from to bigger rentals or to the buying market.
But there are a few drawbacks like graffiti and lack of adequate food outlets.
“If I had a wish I would wish that we had better supermarkets,” Steve Warren, a 14-year resident who chairs the local Clinton Community Garden, said. “There is nothing resembling a large supermarket that serves the area.”
Though parts of Hell’s Kitchen remain industrialized, it has its share of green spaces: Hudson River Park along the West Side Highway; the Clinton Community Garden at 434 W. 48th St.; to Hell’s Kitchen Park at 10th Avenue between 47th and 48th streets; and DeWitt Clinton Park at 52nd Street between 11th and 12th avenues.
Both Warren and Bedoya are hopeful of what the area will look like in the future.
“The neighborhood is definitely moving further west,” Warren said. “Ninth and 10th avenues are now saturated with restaurants.”
Bedoya echoes him, noting that more establishments are now popping up along 11th.
“I think 10 to 20 years from now people will see their investments as a wise decision,” he said.
“And it will continue to provide that neighborhood feeling which makes it very special,” Bedoya added. “I don’t think that will be lost because of the zoning that preserves low rise buildings.”
Sandwiched between Chelsea and the Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen stretches from 34th Street up to 59th Street. Its eastern border is Eighth Avenue and to the west is the Hudson River.
A, C, E to 34th Street/Penn Station and 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Station
C, E to 50th Street
A, C, D, 1 Trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle
M11, M20, M 31, M34, M34A, M42, M 50, M57, M104
New York Public Library, Columbus Branch. 742 10th Ave. 212-586-5098
USPS, 340 W. 42nd St. 212-502-0421
USPS, 322 W. 52nd St. 800-275-8777
The 18th Precinct, also known as the Midtown North Precinct at 306 W. 54th St. and the 14th Precinct, also known as the Midtown South Precinct at 357 W. 35th St. both cover Hell's Kitchen. At both precincts reports of petit larceny are high. There were 39 petit larceny (small theft) cases from Sept. 9-15 at the Midtown North Precinct, down slightly from the same week in 2012 when there were 48.
At Midtown South, there were 60 reported petit larcenies in the same week of this year, up 13% from the 53 last year.
Celebs from Hell's Kitchen:
322 W. 57th St. #31K1. Sunny two-bed, two-bath condo. 1,196 square feet. $1,995,000.
635 W. 42nd St., #21H. One-bed, one-bath condo in The Atelier. 700 square feet. $995,000.
305 W. 52nd St., #6E. Two-bed, one-bath pre-war condo. 1, 150 square feet. $1,050,000.
439 W. 46th St. Newly renovated studio apartment. 385 square feet. $1,850 per month.
360 W. 43rd St.. One-bed, one-bath luxurious condo. 675 square feet. $3,000 per month.
350 W. 50th St. One-bed, one-bath renovated condo. 514 square feet. $2,900 per month.
Looking for a home in Hell’s Kitchen?
Reliance Realty, reliancerealtynyc.com
Cooper & Cooper Real Estate, coopercooper.com
Queen of Sheba, 650 10th Ave. Experience the traditional ways Ethiopian cuisine is eaten. 212-397-0610.
The Landmark tavern, 626 11th Ave. Originating as an Irish waterfront saloon in 1868, it now serves drinks along with lunch, brunch and dinner. 212-247-2562.
Bourbon Street Bar and Grille, 346 W. 46th St. This restaurant row hotspot brings New Orleans to New York. 212-245-2030.
The Pony Bar, 637 10th Ave. The Pony Bar known for its assortment of craft beers, many of which are brewed in the United States. 212-586-2707.
Birdland Jazz Club, 315 W. 44th St. Birdland has hosted some of the most famous acts from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. Live bands continue the tradition today, taking the stage every night. 212-581-3080.
Sky Room, 330 W. 40th St. This rooftop bar offers a panoramic view of the city and happy hour specials during the week. 212-380-1195.
Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market, 426 W. 39th St. Open every Saturday and Sunday year-round, this flea market offers vintage and contemporary finds and features many eccentric and obscure items from more than 30 vendors. 212-243-5343
Coup De Coeur, 609 Ninth Ave. This small contemporary boutique has a friendly staff and offers new styles every week. 212-586-8636.
Delphinium Home, 353 W. 47th St. Delphinium Home has attracted locals and tourists for 14 years with stylish home décor. 212-333-7732.
IntrepidSea, Air and Space Museum, West 46th Street at 12th Avenue. Get an up close view of the prototype space shuttle Enterprise, the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid or cold-war era submarine, the USS Growler at this landmark. 212-245-0072
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 W. 34th St. Car shows and college graduations are not what Jacob Javits is all about. The space also hosts exhibitions like New York Comic Con last weekend and Circle of Sisters, the largest expo for women of color through October 20. 212-216-2000.
Triton Gallery, 630 Ninth Ave. Triton Gallery specializes exclusively in theatrical posters and art. They offer a large collection of posters and windowcards of current and past Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. 212-765-2472.
Hell’s Kitchen will soon be outfitted with yet another transportation option as the 7 Train is slated to extend to 34th Street and 11th Avenue by June 2014.
The $2.4 billion project, which began construction in late 2007, is called the 7 Subway Extension — Hudson Yards Rezoning and Development Program and is headed by the MTA.
The MTA says the subway extension will make it possible for new housing, restaurants and entertainment on the West Side, particularly the neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea, transforming the Hudson Yards into “a vibrant 24-hour neighborhood, containing a mix of commercial, residential, retail, open space and recreational uses,” according to its website. Also according to the MTA, a stop at 41st Street and 10th Avenue was dropped in October 2007.
Q&A with Steve Warren, chairman of the Clinton Community Garden
Steve Warren got involved with the Clinton Community Garden when he moved to Hell’s Kitchen 14 years ago, and has been chairman for three years. The garden, which was granted permanent parkland status in 1984, is open to the public every weekend.
What attracted you to Hell’s Kitchen?
Before I moved here I came into the neighborhood frequently. It was a shopping mecca for foodies with grocery stores, spice stores and mom and pop specialty stores. I certainly liked the neighborhood; I always did because of ... its closeness to the entertainment and activities.
What do you do for leisure here?
I like to walk down to the piers, I enjoy going down to the waterfront and walking around there. I enjoy the variety of different restaurants along Ninth Avenue but that changes so quickly. When I first moved here I collected cards of places along that avenue and two years later 50% of them weren’t there. Now I like walking to see what’s changed.
What is one great thing about living in Hell’s Kitchen?
It has a neighborhood feel. Many residents have been here for several generations. In a city size of New York I can walk 10 blocks and probably talk to six or eight people along the way. I don’t know many places in New York where you can still do that.