I've been watching the Meatpacking District's Olympia parking garage for a long time now. With Pastis on one side and luxury renovations all around, this scruffy survivor has worn the heavy look of doom. Still, it seemed to be doing well. Shopaholics need a place to park their Escalades, after all.
This week, however, scaffolding has gone up over the Olympia and its doors are shut. I called the number and got a "disconnected" message.
The blog Paper and String confirms that after 35 years of business here the Olympia Garage has closed. They write, "Our sources say the rent has increased fivefold and Olympia Garage will not be seeking another location. We were told the Olympia was already becoming dissatisfied with the big changes that came (and are coming) to the Meatpacking District."
Through the window, a few abandoned car keys still hang on the board. The calendar pages are turned to July. The telephones have been ripped out.
I always liked the garage and took several photos of it over the recent years. Seeing this scrappy behemoth in the midst of all that glitter made me happy. I liked the signage. I liked seeing the working men out front, relaxing in their chairs, while the girls went by in high heels paying no attention. I liked that it was sticking it out next to Pastis, as if thumbing its nose at the mind-numbing changes. I liked that it was surviving.
There has been a garage in this spot since at least 1921, according to the Certificate of Occupancy. And before that, before cars, it stabled horses. "It operated as the Radio Garage and Avenue Garage until the 1940s, then as the Gansevoort Garage (Leo and Frank Calarco) and Olympia Garage," says the Landmark Designation Report.
In this NYPL photo from 1940, you can see the Avenue Garage in its spot. It really never changed much.
This is how things have changed in the city. One man's horse stable becomes another man's garage and then another man's garage. Decades go by. Here that rate of change continued for over 90 years. But in the 2000s, every long-time business must be wiped out, almost instantaneously, to complete the unbroken monoculture of the nouveau luxury neighborhoods booming all around them.
So what's coming next? Paper and String says it'll be a Moroccan restaurant.