The Real West Side Story
David Greene May 22, 2014, 11:43 a.m.
While the Hudson Yards becomes a reality over a number of years, it is important to point out that the area nearby on Ninth Avenue from 37th Street to west 57th Street is an exciting, bustling and often trendy area right now. There are few neighborhoods in New York that the younger generation would prefer to live in more than Hell’s Kitchen.
Over this past weekend I played tourist in my own town. I had the pleasure of walking the Ninth Avenue Food Festival, which runs from 42nd Street to 57th Street on both Saturday and Sunday. This is not just sausage and peppers anymore. Spring has sprung and people were out in droves, about 200,000 people over the weekend. Given that I live on the west side, it’s always nice to walk the various neighborhoods but the Ninth Avenue corridor, one of my favorites and one I walk routinely, above and below 42nd Street, is noticeably more vibrant than it was just a year ago. I remember when retailers were nervous about Eighth Avenue, never mind Ninth Avenue. I am a tried and true New Yorker and I have seen much of the development in this neighborhood over the last 15 years and expect a lot more to come.
What is it that is driving this irrepressible desire to live in this neighborhood of Manhattan and who is coming to the west side and Hell’s Kitchen? The next generation, that’s who. Look at the makeup of the housing stock nearby on west 42nd Street and above, skyscraper after skyscraper of chic, modern residential rental buildings catering to today’s youth. There are also plenty of walk-up apartment buildings with good light and numerous modes of transportation nearby.
Part of the reason that so many people gravitate to the social scene on Ninth Avenue is that it is a safe neighborhood in the midst of constant change and improvement and thankfully due to specific zoning laws, few buildings are over 6 stories high. This permits sunlight to reach the ground throughout the day. Without that zoning rule, Ninth Avenue might be a different place. Think of the Canyon of Heroes downtown on Broadway where after 2 pm, there’s no sunlight on the street any longer. Rather, in the spirit of Paris and other worldly cities, generally keeping the scale of most buildings to a minimum, increases the sunlight on the street and the value of the adjacent real estate.
The makeup of Ninth Avenue retail from 42nd to 57th Street is not just mom and pop anymore. There are very good restaurants, practically on every block with cuisines from more than 30 countries. Not a moment to lose if you intend on trying every single one on the Avenue. Cafes and bakeries, apparel emporiums, boutique shops, specialty food shops, social bars and even wine bars for that after work relaxation time. The vibrancy of the Avenue has also moved dramatically south of 42nd Street as well, once, an area known for its fish markets, six foot long hero sandwiches and little else that would bring people below 42nd Street in the evening.
Ninth Avenue and beyond has become a city within a city, an exciting section of town that includes schools, parks, jewel box theaters, lots of trees on every street and very good transportation, a true new York Avenue worth the walk. What used to be dilapidated tenements, occasional industrial type buildings and car dealerships and seedy, dimly lit streets has become a host of destinations with hotels with rooftop bars and top notch restaurants, performance theaters, lounges and bars and the ability to shop for everything within walking distance. Beyond that, Ninth Avenue is the gateway to the spectacular Hudson River Park and it’s well lit waterside path where you can walk, run or bike all the way to the next county as well as the impressive and reverential Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River, the west side has a waterfront worthy of this great city. Ninth Avenue was the turning point.