“Cheap Lunchrooms, Tawdry Saloons and Waterfront Haberdasheries”

The 1930′s Federal Writers Project WPA Guide to New York City, which I love, has a great description of the Hudson waterfront during the time the High Line was built. From the chapter “West Street and North (Hudson) River Waterfront”:

The broad highway, West Street and its continuations, which skirts the North River from Battery Place to Fifty-ninth Street, is, during the day, a surging mass of back-firing, horn-blowing, gear-grinding trucks and taxis. All other water-front sounds are submerged in the cacophony of the daily avalanche of freight and passengers in transit. Ships and shipping are not visible along much of West Street. South of Twenty-third Street, the river is walled by an almost unbroken line of bulkhead sheds and dock structures. North of Twenty-third Street, an occasional open spot in the bulkhead permits a glimpse of the Hudson and the Jersey Shore beyond.

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Let the Sun Shine In (to the Meatpacking District)

This Wednesday, July 9, the new Gansevoort Plaza will play host to a free musical “be-in” featuring songs from the classic counter-cultural musical Hair. The performance is a collaboration between the Theory Icon Project and the Public Theater, which is staging Hair, on its 40th anniversary, as part of this year’s Shakespeare in the Park lineup. The full performance, at Central Park’s Delacort Theater, runs from July 22 to August 31.

The free Wednesday performance begins at 6:30, at Gansevoort Plaza (enter from Gansevoort and Hudson Streets.)

Whitney Designs Revealed

[The view looking north; from left to right, the Hudson River, the West Side Highway, and the Whitney, with the massing concentrated West, stepping down from 170 feet to 50 feet, above the High Line. Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Cooper, Robertson & Partners.]

Tonight the Whitney made public for the first time its preliminary drawings for a new museum at Gansevoort and Washington Streets, right next to the High Line’s southern terminus in the Meatpacking District.

Whitney Director Adam Weinberg presented Renzo Piano’s plans, calling the new facility a “return to the Whitney’s downtown roots.” The original Whitney was on West 8th Street in the Village, the site of the current Studio School. We might add that its location right on the High Line also creates a nice art context– a literal connection to the galleries of Chelsea.

The new museum will provide 185,000 square feet of space, almost doubling the current floorspace of the Madison Avenue location, and offering an opportunity for the Whitney to showcase its permanent collection. It will also house a block-long special exhibition gallery, a theater and performance space, an indoor-outdoor restaurant, several sculpture terraces, and education facilities integrated into the galleries themselves.

Architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times is optimistic about the direction the design is headed, even going so far as to say that Renzo Piano’s design has “created a contemplative sanctuary where art reasserts its primary place in the cultural hierarchy.”

Logistically speaking, the new Whitney is important to the High Line in another way. Because the site is currently City-owned, it offers a rare opportunity for a much-needed Maintenance and Operations facility for the High Line. The new facility will be part of the easement of the Whitney, and is also being designed by Renzo Piano, but there will be no direct connection between it and the museum proper, and the M&O facility will be autonomously run by the Parks Department. The M&O facility will offer public restrooms, an elevator, and meeting rooms for community groups, as well as a home base for for landscaping, maintenance and security staff and equipment. If all goes according to plan, Friends of the High Line will also have offices there.

Right now, the High Line is scheduled to open 3 to 4 years before the Whitney, so in the meantime, our M&O facility will be a series of trailers on the High Line construction site itself. From what we saw of the Whitney’s plans tonight, though, it will be worth the wait.

Whitney’s Downtown Sanctuary [New York Times]


Photo of the Week: Aerial from 15th Street

[Click image to enlarge]

This one was taken before construction began, in the fall of 2005. In the foreground, the High Line runs above the (soon to be gone) Chelsea Car Wash, before ducking through the former Cudahy Meatpacking plant.

Last week’s Photo of the Week

 

Reminder: On Wednesday, Follow “Chalk Shoes to the High Line”

How do you get to the High Line?

Tomorrow, a group of eighth-grade students from the Lab School will be leading the way… in brightly-colored “chalk shoes.” Brooklyn-based artist Julia Mandle will lead student performers through the streets of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, in a performance commissioned by Friends of the High Line. As the students shuffle through the neighborhood on their platform-height “chalk shoes,” they will leave a green path on the sidewalks that will lead to the High Line’s future access points.
The weather promises to be gorgeous, so stop by the neighborhood between 12:30 and 1:30 pm, and check out the performance. Or, come to the Leo Kesting Gallery, where the Chalk Shoes will be on display with a video of the performance. The exhibition will be on display from May 15th-21st, during Meatpacking District Design Week.

Update: Photos are here!

Chalk Shoes to the High Line

Chalk ShoesFriends of the High Line is set to kick off our spring programming season, and we’ll be starting off with a bang.  We’ve commissioned Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary artist Julia Mandle to work with a group of 60 students from the Lab School in Chelsea to mount a performance and exhibition this April and May. 

The kids, all 8th-grade art students, will be wearing chalk shoes during the performance, scuffing their feet along the sidewalks of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea.  In the end, they will create a giant urban chalk drawing ending at the future access points of the High Line.  The idea is to mark the future paths that people will take to the High Line, and generate excitement about the park’s opening later this year.  More details after the jump!
[Photo by Ronald Cowie (2008)]
 

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Florent: “Don’t Cry for Me”

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An update on the imminent closing of beloved Meatpacking District institution Florent, which will soon lose its lease after 22 years on Gansevoort Street: According to the Villager‘s resident news-cat Scoopy, restauranteur Florent Morellet is not looking for another space, but is excited to pursue other projects, including writing his memoir and devoting more time to his art: drawing maps of imaginary cities.

Florent is planning a five-week going-away bash, from Memorial Day to Gay Pride on June 29. In a final display of irreverence, he’s theming each week around one of the five stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

He told us he’s gotten an outpouring of sympathy from restaurant fans for closing. “Don’t cry for me,” he says, pointing out that the end of his restaurant chapter is just the beginning of another great adventure.

We wish him luck on what’s sure to be a brilliant career in memoir-writing, mapmaking, rabble-rousing, landmarking, theatrics, editorializing, farce, pyrotechnics, airport entertainment, Bastille-storming, and championing of great causes small and large.

Florent Moves [Scoopy's Notebook]

Florent Goes to Court! [High Line Blog]

Florent Watch: Restaurant Officially Being Shopped for $700K/Yr [Eater]

Photo of the Week: West Side Cowboy Twofer

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[Cowboy on 10th Avenue and 17th Street. Click to enlarge.]

This is one of our favorite historical images. The West Side Cowboys were employed by the City to ride in front of street-level freight trains and wave pedestrians out of the way. This was the City’s stopgap measure to stop the carnage on what was known as “Death Avenue.” The Cowboys were phased out after the High Line was built, raising train traffic to the third story of industrial buildings. The cowboy above is from the 1930′s, when the High Line was being built, and the structure is visible in the background. The cowboy below dates from 1911, before the High Line was a glimmer in its daddy’s eye.

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[Cowboy on 13th Street and 11th Avenue in the Meatpacking District. Photo from Shorpy.com, the 100-Year-Old Photo Blog. Click to enlarge and note the guy with the pegleg.]

After the jump, the 1934 London Terrace Tatler waxes eloquent about the Cowboys and their brave ponies.

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Gearing Up for Meatpacking District Design Week

Design Week

Our neighbors at The Meatpacking District Initiative have just announced some details about Meatpacking District Design Week 2008, happening the weekend of May 16-18.  Design Week events typically include afternoon and evening exhibitions, product launches, panel discussions, art installations, and cocktail parties, all held in venues, stores, and restaurants around the Meatpacking District.  The showcase happens every spring and is timed to coincide with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

For the third year in a row, Friends of the High Line will be taking part in the weekend.  This time, we’re partnering with the Apple Store on West 14th and Ninth Avenue to host an exhibition of brand new High Line construction photography.  The Apple Store will also serve as the Desgin Week “hub,” where visitors can pick up a neighborhood guide and find out about all the exciting activities going on each day.  Stay tuned to our e-newsletter and this space for more details (and an invite to our cocktail party!) over the next couple of months.

Photo of the Week: Rainy Day Woman

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[Click image to enlarge]

In honor of the dismal weather forecast for this week, here’s my favorite rain shot of the High Line. This is an old meatpacking platform on 13th Street turned impromptu surrealist still-life.

Previous Photo of the Week

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