This past spring, alongside the High Line at 10th Avenue and 17th Street, the old brick building that houses Artichoke Basille's Pizza was looking desolate, the windows empty or boarded up. I wondered what was happening there.
On a more recent visit, what happened has become clear. From the High Line, you can see into the open windows--the plywood is gone and the apartments have been gut renovated.
The building is now being marketed as "The Highline Flats."
Per the listing, these are: "Newly renovated Pre-War Flats in the
hottest section in West Chelsea. Steps from The Highline...Make the
Highline Flats your new home in the city."
The open house is this week.
From the bits I can put together, somewhere between 2007 and 2009, the building owner changed from 114 Tenth Ave Assoc. to the aptly named Highline Properties, LLC.
Soon after, complaints to the Department of Buildings began to multiply, becoming more and more intense as time went on. Complaints about illegal wiring and lack of permits turned into reports about illegal subdivisions, with ceilings being opened to fit spiral staircases between apartments, removed walls, and even a removed staircase. That complaint reads, "CLR STS STAIRCASE WAS REMOVED FROM 4FL TO 5FL AND FROM 5FL TO ROOF, SO THERE IS NO WAY TO GET OUT OR IN OF THIS FLOORS." A stop work order was given and later rescinded.
During that same time, attracted to the High Line, the hyper-popular Artichoke Basille's Pizza moved in after a battle with the neighbors. Reported Chelsea Now in 2010, "A female resident of 457 W. 17th St., the building that houses the restaurant, also objected to alcohol sales because of the already raucous situation she observes on the streets below her apartment. 'Every night we cannot sleep till 6 o’clock in the morning—6 o’clock... They’re vomiting there, they’re sleeping there—it’s terrible, it’s terrible.'"
But after November 2011, like magic, the residents stopped complaining about the renovations and the pizza place. Maybe that's because the residents had vanished. A partial vacate order went through that month.
my flickr, 2009
One apartment, however, has not been renovated. Through the window, you can see dusty plants and the clutter of a life long-lived in one small space. It's an island in the midst of The Highline Flats. High up, in the front, someone might still be seen leaning out, looking at the changing view, a human artifact of another city. I hope the new neighbors will be kind to her.