From Grit to Glam
Not that long ago the Meatpacking District, a web of cobble stoned streets, was the sole source of meat products for New York businesses – whole skinned cows and other animals literally hung from hooks on the streets. Fueled by crack, in the evening the area became a lurid labyrinth of pathways and hiding places for transsexual prostitutes seeking an extra buck or two. The merchandise of the morning wasn't that different from what was available in the evening; meat in large quantities for a low rate.
Around that same time West Chelsea, a sea of empty warehouses and abandoned industrial businesses, had little but the Roxy, a drug-fueled gay disco, and dirty streets. Then came the art galleries and real estate developers. Then came Films, fashion shoots and TV shows, like Sex and the City, which made a walk through hookers and junkies to get to a lofty apartment seem rather glamorous. Once again, fashion and film forge the founding of the latest hot neighborhoods.
Since the early development of the High Line, the now famous park that occupies abandoned railroad tracks and that cuts through these two now visually striking neighborhoods, these Summoning the expertise of the word-famous designers and architects; fancy hotels, galleries, residences and restaurants sprouted deep roots in the area. One after the other, block-by-block, cleaning up what was once a secluded and blighted area – a true real estate metamorphosis has occurred.
The focal point of the area is the The Standard. From the top of this sleek and sexy hotel, New York City looks like a playground. You can sip drinks among Marc Jacobs, Alessandra Ambrosio, Lorenzo Martone and Anna Wintour, while gazing down at Diane Von Furstenberg’s glass-encased loft apartment - one that has become a New York landmark, much like the designer has become a fashion legend. Rumor has it that in the morning you can spot Ms. Furstenberg having breakfast while still in her nightgown, sitting in her dining room, which stands underneath an impressive diamond shaped glass dome.
The Standard however, is not only famous for it’s penthouse bar, but also for its pool parties, which are now a second club, known as Le Bain. There, you can simply undress and enjoy the evening while sipping drinks in the pool in the company of local luminaires like Terry Richardson and Paz de la Huerta.
The seductive nightlife of the big apple is not complete however without two of the most popular nightclubs in town: Avenue and 1 Oak. It was at Avenue that Lindsay Lohan allegedly got in a fight with the blonde Tiffanny Mitchell over The Wanted’s Max George. The brawl resulted in yet another arrest for Lindsay, who once again denied everything. Lohan somehow managed to get herself back in that club even after being banned after some indiscreet tweets about Justin Timberlake. At 1 Oak, the scene is less dramatic, but never less flashy. Rihanna has been known to celebrate a couple of her album launches at the spot alongside fellow musicians like Jay-Z. It was also at 1 Oak that Donald Trump held a bash to celebrate his modeling agency’s fashion week success.
With the rich and famous, fashion comes hand in hand, and the area does not disappoint. From the Meatpacking District all the way up among the galleries, a cadre of some of the most exclusive designers in the world have set up shop in the vicinity. Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons, Alexander McQueen, Yigal Azrouel, Moschino, Helmuth Lang, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin, Maison Martin Margiela and Carlos Miele are only a few of the shops worth visiting. For a unique experience, why not try the department store Jeffrey’s, which has one of the most renowned shoe departments in town. Or, stop by a Scoop sale for fancy jeans and hip t-shirts. After all, a good designer bargain is never a bad idea!
Since most of the shopping is done by foot, a stop to refuel the energies seems more than called for. Whether it’s for a lunch, a mid-day snack or a celebratory dinner, some of New York’s most celebrated restaurants are in the area; the menus here no doubt indulge any palate. From a good steak at the biergarten of The Standard Grill to the innovative Thai Cuisine of Sea you can find it all. At Pastis you can have French and at Buddakan you can have Chinese. But if the mood is for some American contemporary all you got to do is take a walk up 10th Avenue to try the tasteful delights of The Cookshop. If a simple slice of pizza is what’s called for, don’t you worry, because Artichoke Pizza is right around the corner with its award winning pies.
The most important part of this area remain – sometimes secreted - within the giant warehouse spaces, which once used to host heavy machinery, grains and pieces of meat and now have given room for multi-million dollar pieces of art.
The art galleries of the area remain the heart of the cultural trading life in this city. The Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner and Pace Gallery are among some of the most important outposts for art in the world. Representing artists like Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon, Julian Schnabel, Roe Ethridge, Dan Flavin, Chuck Close, Willem De Kooning, Pablo Picasso and Ed Ruscha, these galleries are an international force. Put on your walking boots and allow yourself to go from door to door in every block between 9th and 11th avenues from 19th street all the way up to 27th and experience contemporary art, free of charge, like nowhere else.
Even though this may not be the most celebrated neighborhood for its residences, some of the most famous people you know now reside here. Whether it’s in the classic London Terrace or in the ultra modern glass buildings by Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel or Shigeru Ban; a fascinating residential occupation took place over the last decade. This neighborhood currently hosts names like Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Katie Holmes, all of which can be seen calmly strolling around at any given time during the day or the night.
The most remarkable and breathtaking feature this area still holds true – the Hudson River, which bathes the west side of Manhattan in full splendor. To sit at a bench on the Highline and watch the sunset from above is one of the most rewarding and relaxing activities one can choose to do at the end of a day. And believe me, many New Yorkers do, why don’t you give it a try too?