Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mallification of New York

While I'm feeling curmudgeonly--it was announced today that the church building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 20th Street which was once the home of famed nightclub The Limelight and more recently Avalon will undergo a renovation to be turned into a "mini-mall" of all things. Even the sound of it is repuslive. I ask you, how can something called a "mini-mall" be anything short of hideous? But I digress...

Back when New York enjoyed a reputation for having some of the most exciting nightlife in the world (IN THE WORLD!) the Limelight, which opened in 1983, was one of New York's premiere nightclubs. Like many nightclubs though it was not without its controversy, most notably manslaughter charges against club promoter Michael Alig who plead guilty in the death of a club-goer in 1996. Once the Limelight closed, the building changed hands a couple of times. During Giuliani's attempt to homogenize the city in the '90s every possible obstacle from restrictive and unrealistic noise ordinances with hefty fines to dozens of costly permits and licenses was put in place making new nightclubs virtually impossible to open. Supposedly this was done to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers and tourists. Apparently no consideration was afforded to those tourists or New Yorkers who come here for the nightlife.

During the Limelight's heyday the neighborhood at 20th and Sixth was a bit of a no-mans land. It was too far east to really be Chelsea, too far west for Gramercy, so in the late '90s realtors started to call it the Flatiron District after the Flatiron building at 23rd and Fifth. This gave a chic sounding name to the neighborhood where former warehouses were being turned into expensive condos. It wasn't long before neighbors who willingly chose to move in next door to one of the most famous nightclubs in the world started to complain about the noise and loitering around the club. (I know--it boggles the mind.) In an effort to appease these wealthy new home owners the city was constantly looking for reasons to shut the club down. Finally in 2002, as The Avalon, the old church building was shuttered up for good.

Well, we may not have any great nightclubs left in New York but at least we can all buy sweaters at the Gap.

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At 6:48 PM, Blogger Man On The Street said...

Ironic. You point to the Mallification of New York, and I am currently working on a photo essay about the New York-ification of Chicago. There are a bunch of new businesses in the State Street shopping area, Macy's the main one of course, that have strong New York roots. And there's a new bar/restaurant across the street from where I work called the Midtown Bar and Grill...peculiar since no one has ever called any area in Chicago "Midtown" (we call it the Loop or simply "downtown"). Add to that the continued construction of the new Trump Tower Chicago by the river and a new pizza place that specializes in New York style pizza that has been getting a lot of press.. New York style pizza?.. IN CHICAGO?!?

Anyway, I'm writing it for a web magazine I work with called Jargon Chicago (I think I have a link for it on my page). But suffice to say I understand your frustration when slow but wholesale changes occur in "your" city.


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