This weekend, on the night when gay marriage was passed in New York State, the Eagle bar was raided by the NYPD. Was it homophobia or something else?
Inside the Eagle
The city's classic gay leather bar, the Eagle moved to desolate West 28th Street in 2001, after the original Eagle closed further downtown, where it had survived since 1970 in a former longshoreman's pub until the neighborhood went upscale.
As the Times reported on this weekend's raid, the police turned on the lights, shined flashlights in patrons' faces, and forced people to empty their pockets. Patrons report being harassed and intimidated. An NYPD spokesperson said the raid had nothing to do with the bar's clientele, "it has to do with complaints." Said the Times, establishments targeted for this type of inspection are "selected because they are the subjects of 'chronic complaints' from community members" for problems like excessive noise.
How many noise complaints has the Eagle had in the past year? According to the 311 Service Request Map, there have been zero complaints of any kind. Am I missing something here? Most of the complaints in this largely unpopulated area are about construction noise.
The Eagle is a red rectangle, complaints are yellow circles
What's really going on? Was the Eagle raided because it was Pride Weekend? Or because gay marriage just passed in New York? No. It was raided because the city wants to shut it down--because this block is changing fast and the Eagle boys are not what the Bloombergians want here.
Not only has the extended High Line just opened on this block, but AvalonBay is building their massive Avalon West Chelsea directly across the street from the Eagle, taking 60,000 square feet of space to put in a 700-unit residential development with "provisions for restaurants" and a "parking garage for over 140 cars located in the building." To do so, they have already bulldozed a cluster of industrial businesses long located here.
In this shot from the new High Line, you can see the digging machines next to the Folsom East celebration (just a week before the raid). That is a vast empty lot about to be filled. And what will the finished product look like?
Here is the rendering of the complex to come--it looks a lot like Avalon's giant glass boxes on the Bowery and includes their wish for a Whole Foods along with "restaurants, galleries, fashion." If they did it to the Bowery, they can do it to West 28th.
What many of those south-facing windows look out on is the roof deck of the Eagle, where men in leather chaps and harnesses cavort. "Don't miss your chance to be a part of the High Line," says Avalon's ad copy. I don't think this is what they mean. Do the High Line huggers really want their view to include sweaty, furry leathermen?
The timing of this raid has nothing to do with Pride or gay marriage, and everything to do with the High Line's recent arrival on 28th Street and every glittering thing it brings in its wake. Mark my words, the Pride Weekend raid on the Eagle is Phase One of the city's plan to push this historic bar out of its home and put the kibosh on the Folsom Street East fair in the process.
This isn't your garden variety homophobia at work. It's Manifest Destiny. It matters to everyone who cares about the preservation of New York's soul because this is part of Bloomberg's plan to turn all of Manhattan into a luxury product. And the dress code does not permit leather and Levi's.
Folsom Under High Line
Pleasure Chest 1972
Men in Leather
Lenny & Leather