The number of subway riders and buyers browsing in meatpacking district shops is dwindling. There’s just no one left to buy your leathery seared tuna at Mesa Verde, the wholesale fish market. But it was still okay for someone to clutch a luncheon plate at Carpinteria Grill, a downtown eatery whose owner still manages to flip her $50 million white tablecloth business at the top of the city’s food power rankings. These days, downtown’s catwalks reflect the receding power and influence of the meatpacking district, home to the largest concentration of companies and individuals seeking shelter in Manhattan and the richest residents in the state.
[footnotes and a related story and Quartz]
The Big Apple had always been gentrifying. The old downtown was both the center of the nation’s commercial and manufacturing power and its most violent neighborhood. It turned deadly in the 1960s when the garment district was decimated by white flight to suburbs and industrial booms elsewhere. The place we know today was once the “Meatpacking District,” where bodegas were raucous and open in the lunch hour. Offices were full.
Now you find upscale, restaurant-front storefronts. Businesses that once fired workers at 4 pm, before any tourists could stumble by, are shuttered. Some stores can’t even afford their rent. Whether fashionistas and straight men with puffy coats or suntanned folks with salad cans and linen minidresses still patronize these shops is a big question mark.
Between 1990 and 2000, half of all women shopping on Wall Street were from the meatpacking district. Today, many who shop downtown may be foreign-born and they may be Chinese, Latin American, or African-American. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has suggested that areas have to become more diverse to keep them from losing their international appeal and livability.
The meatpacking district is about to get a big break in its transformation. Superstorm Sandy depleted resources of numerous federal and local organizations that operated in this community and led to the department closing its tobacco smoke control office. There are already two local organizations, the Brooklyn Beer Co. and Tobacco Street Days, gearing up to cover the deficit.
Yoga instructor and green market vendor Michael Chan, 30, opened Yoga on the Greene, in the meatpacking district, in 2014 to fill the void. “After Hurricane Sandy, the mills were demolished,” said Chan. The downtown shopping culture where Chan spent much of his time is being replaced with a more global style of “domestic” shopping.
“I feel good about the young vibe,” said Chan. “But in 5 to 10 years, I feel like we will face some of the same issues. A lot of what is sold here is not authentic. This will be a very cool place, but it will start to look like the Whole Foods district, like Jersey City.”
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