As the "Shacking of America" continues, Shake Shack is "gentrifying the only good pizza in town," according to a Fulton Mall pizza man who just got the boot. Shake Shack may also be gearing up to be part of the Coney Island invasion that has shuttered beloved Ruby's Bar, though owner Meyer told Grub Street, "Don’t know anything about it.”
Developers and the City have been dying to gentrify the Fulton Mall, and now they're doing just that with the simple addition of a single, powerful burger chain.
The whole thing reminds me of the intentional introduction of alien species. In this practice, humans introduce a foreign species into an existing ecosystem where they hope to gain something from the introduction. Economic gain is the number one reason for doing so. Often, the alien species becomes an invasive species and takes over. Kudzu is one example. The mongoose in Hawaii is another. Originally used as biological control agents, invasive species breed prolifically and spread, destroying major elements of native flora and fauna.
I'm not sure what it's called when this is done with businesses in cities, but it seems a lot like the same concept at work: Put a Shake Shack at Fulton Mall and watch the gentrification spread. I wonder if that was also the point of placing one this summer on the corner of Crack and 8-Ball off Times Square.
It isn't news that the burger chain took over this corner previously occupied by the Playpen and its 1916 vaudeville theater, but it is shocking to stumble upon it, suddenly there, clogged with giddy tourists.
It made me worry about the effect it will have on the nearby businesses. To the north, there's Smith's, a dive bar somewhat recently turned flatscreen-style sports bar, but still sporting some of the more beautiful neon signage in town.
Gone is their weird, meat-cluttered steam table for self-served "hand-carved sandwiches," and overall, something darkly Times Squarish has been lost from Smith's. This happened about a year ago and that's already a loss.
In this 2004 shot, you can see that old-timey meats like FRESH BRISKET and KNOCKWURST were still on the menu. Now they're pushing their burgers to compete with Shake Shack. But we all know the Shack will win. For some reason, people will stand in lines for an hour or more just for the Shack's gooey delights.
South of the Shack, cheek by jowl, is one of the last substantial chunks of seedy Times Square, a pair of XXX joints huddled together like endangered bonobo chimps, pretending the end isn't near while they go on humping.
Directly next to Shake Shack there's Lace, "A Gentleman's Club," and next to that is Gotham City. Both of them have live, mostly nude girls. At Lace it's dancers, and at Gotham you can find women in booths upstairs, above the lingerie section. They sit on stools and ask you if you want a show ($30 for masturbation). I believe this "live peep" is the very last of its kind in Times Square.
Just look at that naked lady neon sign. That it still exists, in the New York of 2010, is nothing less than a miracle.
Do you think the powers that be will permit these establishments to continue next to the shiny new Shack with its endless flow of, as Eater once called them, "Midtown office drones, the burger bloggers, the Shack fanatics, the Intercontinental Hotel guests, and the Theater-going tourists"?
We know what happens when popular, higher end businesses are introduced into a neighborhood. Like the mongoose and gypsy moth, they have a powerful and irreversible effect on the ecosystem. We've seen the ripples from the "McNally Effect" and the "Marc Jacobs Effect." These phenomena move fast. So keep your eye on this block of Times Square--have a Smith's burger, visit the strippers, get a $30 masturbation show--because I fear we will soon see the Shack Effect in action.
The clock is ticking.
"I Shake Shack NY"