Curbed recently reported that The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is celebrating Community Board 2's rejection of a giant glass tower for 437 West 13th Street in the Meatpacking District. GVSHP reports, "The owner of 437-51 West 13th Street is proposing to demolish the historic meatmarket buildings on the site and build a 215 ft. tall office tower with a 3-story big-box retail space in its base."
This rejection, however, does not mean #437 will be saved, and that's cause for sorrow, because #437 is Interstate Foods, Inc., the largest meatpacking plant left in the Meatpacking District, it's been here for about 60 years, and now it's about to vanish.
*Correction: Interstate and Atlas Meats shared the space; Interstate, a poultry company, left in fall of 2008; Atlas is going soon. See the Times for their follow-up to this story.
Meatpackers have been vanishing for awhile now and Interstate's closure may mean layoffs for many blue-collar workers. Wrote the Villager in 2005, "Interstate has two-thirds of its business in the Hunt’s Point Market in the Bronx, now the city’s main meat market, to which many meatpackers from the Meat Market relocated. But they can’t move their 13th St. operation there." As Interstate's vice president Vincent Pacifico said, "There is no Bronx. The Bronx is full."
Aware that Interstate's days were numbered, I've been hovering around it over the past year or so. I love Interstate because it's the last of its kind. A big, sprawling plant with a metal awning and rusty track system, it's one of the only places where you can walk by and still see massive slabs of meat hanging from metal hooks. Men in bloodied aprons stand outside smoking cigarettes. The sidewalk out front is greased with a slippery white film of fat. The odor rising from it is pure death--and it makes you feel alive just to smell it.
But not everyone agrees. Back in the early 2000's, when the Meatpacking District was just beginning to be destroyed, locals told the Times, "The sidewalks smell from bloody animal parts...Can you imagine walking over there with your Manolo Blahniks? You say 'cool' when you move in, but then you try to maneuver your baby stroller between all those guys, and you rush home to call 911."
And yet the fashionistas did come, tottering around on their Manolos, pushing their strollers, drunk on cosmos and conspicuous consumption--and oblivious to the blood and guts, as I wrote about here.
In that same Times article, Robert Greenzeig, president of Interstate Foods, knew the end was coming, noting, "If I bought a million-dollar apartment, I wouldn't want us across the street. I'd start complaining."
In Standard's shadow, 2007
So perhaps it's no coincidence that we are losing Interstate just weeks after the opening of the super-luxury Standard Hotel, which towers over the meatpacking plant, its back door spilling shiny, happy people onto a street slicked with blood, where homeless men encamp, and the last remnants of "New York noir" fade away like a black-and-white photograph too long exposed to the ravages of sunlight.
See all my photos of Interstate Foods here
Meatpackers and Meat
Men in Leather