Gentrification: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You
Chinatown is changing. Of course, all cities are living, breathing organisms that are constantly changing, adapting, sometimes deteriorating, and often transforming themselves in a dynamic give-and-take with dips in the economy, successive waves of immigrants, and bursts of urban renewal. But even so, there have been many recent changes in the neighborhood too big to ignore. Here’s a quick rundown.
Open City Mag reported on the unlawful eviction of tenants at 11 Allen Street this past summer. The Lo-Down just published an exhaustive review of the LES hotel boom, including the newly minted Wyndham hotel on Hester and Bowery that opened on Nov. 1 (and looks tacky as hell).
On a recent walk down Grand Street, I noticed a new art gallery near Eldridge Street with a snooty-looking gallery girl keeping watch in tight leather pants. Sure, art galleries abound on the LES, but I was caught off guard when I saw this one across the street from the wet markets sandwiched between a Chinese bakery and a Buddhist supply store.
The kicker, though, is the long-abandoned Jarmulowsky Bank building on Canal and Allen. The Ace Hotel bought it for a cool $36 million. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by that building and wondered what it might become one day. I never thought it would be another Ace Hotel (aka hipster headquarters). I work around the corner from the location on 29th Street and Broadway. The hotel hasn’t completely transformed the transient wholesaler neighborhood it’s embedded in, but it sits there like a silent rook biding its time before it can go in for the checkmate.
The one bright spot is the funky pink building on the corner of Grand and Orchard; formerly the Ridley & Sons Department Store (once the largest department store in the city), the 125-year-old building was officially landmarked in September.
I’ve never been one to chime in with the old gentrification refrain: “Things will never be the same.” Change is inevitable, a simple fact of life. Whining is not the solution. The only thing you can do is be the change you want to see in the world (easier said than done). But the idea of the Ace Hotel opening up shop on the edge of Chinatown makes me nervous. And a little bit sad. Will they remember what happens when you stand underneath the Manhattan Bridge at dusk?
What happens there at dusk, you ask? Absolutely everything.