Welcome to Chelsea

29th Street and 9th Avenue

Billymark’s West, established 1956, is a bar on the corner of 29th and 9th. It’s been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m not sure if it will reopen, but one can hope.

23rd Street and 9th Avenue

Here on the corner of 21st Street and 8th Avenue are two new high-end businesses, Raul and Cafe Flor. They replaced a Subway and a Qdoba, which at first might seem like a good thing – no more chains and instead two new restaurants with higher quality food, where’s the problem? I’m not arguing that these faceless chains contributed anything to this corner or that their food is good, but their closure is indicative of higher rents caused by gentrification. If even a multinational chain like Subway couldn’t afford to stay in the building, it likely means that its customers disappeared and the rents have risen. As Chelsea gentrified, its working class residents, who are more likely to frequent a cheap sandwich shop, moved out. At the same time as residential rents increased, commercial rents likely rose as well. This meant that a low-end business that serves working people, even if it is a giant corporation like Subway, simply cannot make a profit.

View from the Highline of the intersection of 10th Avenue and 28th street.

I like the above photo because it encapsulates a lot of different aspects of gentrification and also feels like a snapshot of the current dizzying speed of development in New York. You can see a couple of old tenements on the corner hanging on by a thread and plastered with developer-sponsored murals – albeit beautiful murals – to “spruce up” the neighborhood. On either side of these old buildings are new plasticky, boxy condos overwhelming and crowding out the brick tenements. In the foreground is a hole in the ground for a twenty-odd story condo building that will ultimately block this whole view. Just a few years ago that construction site was a parking lot under an abandoned rail line, now thanks to a rezoning, it’s prime real estate adjacent to the Highline. Finally, in the background of this image is the Empire State Building, a true New York landmark peeking out as if to remind us that the city is still here, we just have to seek it out.

25th Street and 7th Avenue

23rd Street and 7th Avenue

22nd Street and 7th Avenue