The Downside of the High Line
The transformation of West Chelsea has been costly to long-time businesses
But the transformation hasn't been easy for the old-line businesses in the shadow of the High Line, many of which have struggled as the neighborhood's customer base has gone upscale.
Mike DeFilippo sits at the epicenter of the change. He bought the Knickerbocker Meat Market on Ninth Avenue three years ago, taking over a store that has been in that location since 1960. "With all the new building we are seeing, whether that is secondary to The High Line or not, it is causing a lot of problems in the neighborhood because it's driving the rents up," he said.
"The High Line's ripple effect spreads out across Chelsea, reaching 8th Avenue where many long-time businesses are being pushed out due to rising rents," Moss said. "In one example, the Camouflage boutique just shuttered after 38 years, their rent more than tripled, from $7,000 to $24,000 a month."
The owner of Camouflage, Norm Usiak, was born and raised in New York, and currently lives on the Upper East Side. "If they can get someone who will pay twice as much, they don't care who it is. The presentation doesn't matter, so that's why you get things like a 711, Subway, or a chain pie store," said Usiak. "What's interesting about it is that eventually Manhattanites are going to sadly lose a lot of visuals. Every store you walk into these days is exactly the same."
After working with landlords in the area for so many years he explained "There are a lot of mom and pop tenants that have been here a long time, but the area is definitely changing," he said. "Let's face it, the landlords have the opportunity to upscale their buildings and get better tenants."
Like most changing neighborhoods in New York, the upscaling of Tenth Avenue has sparked the debate whether this is improving, or hurting the lives of New Yorkers. The increase in safety, new shopping, and trendy eateries has benefitted the millions of tourist that visit the avenue each year; but it seems to have left the native New Yorkers living and working in the area for decades with nothing but bigger bills.
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