Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed's series of photo essays by Nathan Kensinger. This week, as part of a series on soon-to-change neighborhoods, Kensinger visits the Hudson Yards area.
[On the west side of Manhattan, several megaprojects are rapidly transforming the industrial neighborhood around the Hudson Yards. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]
The Hudson Yards project is now rising on Manhattan's west side, transforming a once gritty industrial area into a new residential neighborhood. Touted as "the largest real estate project in U.S. history" by Fortune Magazine, this megaproject will create over 18 million square feet of new buildings, and will include a new park, boulevard, subway extension, and the final stretch of the High Line. But in the growing shadow of these impending luxury towers, a small pocket of older businesses still stands, defying land speculators and developers. These century-old warehouses provide a haven for taxi drivers and car mechanics, and a home to some of Manhattan's last working horses.
"I own this building. I've been here a long time. I really don't want to sell this building," said Cornelius Byrne, sitting in his hay-strewn office on West 37th Street. He has owned a three-story stable here since 1979, although the building first began housing horses when it was built in 1910. Seventeen horses currently call the stable home, sleeping on the second floor and trotting out past the Javits Center each day, pulling their carriages up to Central Park. "They are work horses. They need a job," said Byrne, whose stable is one of the four that remain in Manhattan. But with protests against the carriage trade growing and developers hovering nearby, "we're having a lot of problems staying in business."
Byrne's horse stable shares a block with the strip of land that will soon become Hudson Park & Boulevard?"a fundamental element of the new Hudson Yards district," according to developers, which "will help transform the area from a desolate industrial neighborhood to a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district." The first stage of this project will include two entrances to the new 7 train extension, and is currently being built between 33rd and 36th Street, where the city has used eminent domain to facilitate the demolition of many old buildings. "This is what Mayor Bloomberg has called the new 'Gold Coast,'" said Byrne, whose neighbor recently sold to the Chetrit Group for $26.5 million. "Everything is because of that train."
"What they want to do is make it a playground for rich tourists," concludes Mark Luehrs, who has spent five years grooming horses in Byrne's stable. "I have nothing against rich people, but I'm not too keen on them taking a family owned business down." The second phase of Hudson Park & Boulevard will extend from 36th to 39th Street, through several blocks of century-old warehouses. The desire for land near the planned park and subway has created intense pressure on the remaining independent businesses in the neighborhood, their owners say.
"They pushing us out slowly, slowly. We are nothing for them. We are little bugs in their way," said Jon Balogh, the owner of Active Auto Repair on West 38th Street. His business specializes in European cars, and is housed in a narrow two story warehouse that shares the street with yet another horse stable. Because of rising rents and the temptation for the building's owner to sell, Balogh believes he will be forced to move out of the area soon. "They don't want cars," said Balogh. "They should have everything. Small shops too. They are trying to push everybody out of the city."
Hudson Yards broke ground in December 2012 and construction is underway on its first 47-story tower.
Workers are operating seven days a weeks on the site, located near the final section of the High Line.
North of Hudson Yards, construction is being done along an Amtrak line, part of which will be underneath Hudson Park & Boulevard.
Demolition for Hudson Park has now reached the warehouses on 36th Street. "You think they are going to leave a little two-story shop like this?" asked an auto mechanic working inside one warehouse.
Several businesses in the area have had to relocate further north, including this auto repair shop on 38th Street, whose building was sold to the Chetrit Group.
An abandoned check cashing business on 11th Avenue sits next to a closed-down taxi depot and shuttered auto body shop.
The area is a destination for homeless people. "I'm going to buy a tent," said one recent arrival from California. "Is there a good place to put a tent around here?"
The area can sometimes feel deserted. "It's not so busy around here," said a parking lot attendant. "If there is nothing happening over there at the Javits Center, it's empty.
On 38th Street, by Active Auto Repair, "they are selling property for $30, $40 million," said Jon Balogh. "I believe they will put in hotels or high rises."
With two stables in the neighborhood, carriage drivers and taxis must share the streets. "I'm just a working class guy with a working class horse," said one carriage driver. "Two horses, actually."
At Cornelius Byrne's stable, named Central Park Carriages, the horses live on the second floor. "The people in 1910 really knew what they were doing," said Byrne. "It's a good building. They built it well."
Despite the stable's long history, "DiBlasio?who is looking likely to be the next mayor?says the first thing he is going to do is get rid of us," said Byrne.
For Mark Luehrs, closing the stable would mean more then just a lost job. "I live in the building, so I'm going to be homeless. You're going to make me homeless at 59?"
"New York is not the place for me," concludes Luehrs. "This city is out to fuck you. I mean, it's not even out to fuck you, it's a steamroller."
For Cornelius Byrne, moving his stable remains a possibility. "If I was to sell this, I would want to be relocated to a place that would suit my needs," said Byrne. "We don't want to get in the way of progress, but progress has to make room for us too."
If his stable were to be forced out of business, Byrne does not know what would happen to the horses. "The guys would have to sell them. If they get a home, they would be lucky. Nobody knows what to do with the unwanted horse."
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