“Everything is just shutting down in this neighborhood,” said Solon Ramirez, a local resident.
This has been a common complaint among New Yorkers in Hell’s Kitchen. Owners of local shops were forced to close and pack their belongings to make room for a flashy 38-story hotel.
Hell’s Kitchen is located between 34th Street and 59th Street. Once a low-rise community, it has come to be known as “Clinton” because “Clinton” sounds more modern and the name reflects the sleek, new buildings dominating the area.
Although Hell’s Kitchen has been gentrifying since the 1970s, locals were very disappointed to hear that a city block of markets was forced to move elsewhere during the past two months.
The first victim was the Big Apple Meat Market located on the corner of 41st and 9th Avenue. It had been open for more than two decades and has become a local favorite because of its cheap, good quality meats and other food.
“That’s why I like this place; you get cheap and good food,” said Edward Montilla, who was a regular shopper at that market.
When the market was abruptly closed at the end of January to make room for the New York Hotel, a message from the store was posted on the door.
“I tried everything but at the end we have to move on,” wrote Pat Maddalena, the manager of the meat market.
When locals heard about this news, they were very disappointed. They complained how everyone would have to buy groceries at the Food Emporium and that it would be constantly crowded.
“Now, I have to buy my meats in the Food Emporium and it’s going to be like a war zone inside,” said Michael McKee.
“The Emporium could only do so much,” said Raul Garcia.
One month later, the relocated meat market opened again. The new location is located at 39th Street and 9th Avenue, which is about two blocks away from the original location. However, according to locals, they said it doesn’t see to have the same success as before.
The second victim was next to the meat market, the 99¢ Fresh Pizza. Like the Big Apple Meat Market, it also was an old-time favorite. It has opened for at least a decade.
“That pizza place was amazing, it was the ideal hangout place after school. The service was quick and the people that worked there was really friendly,” said Daniel Das, a regular customer of the place.
Just weeks after the Meat Market was moved, the pizzeria suffered a similar fate. The pizzeria closed but announced that it will relocate one avenue away.
Today, the pizzeria is experiencing the same amount of success as before but some locals, particularly students said they couldn’t stick around as much as before because of the close proximity to other residential and office buildings occupying the area.
“I can’t hang out there anymore because people from the residential building next to the pizza place don’t want kids blocking their entrance,” said Jay Williams.
But the biggest blow for residents in Hell’s Kitchen was the closing of the Stiles Farmers Market, which was between the meat market and the pizzeria.
The market had been open for 26 years and has gained a remarkable reputation as one of the most popular markets in the neighborhood.
But at the end of February, it was forced to close and was purchased by the Friedman & Landis Group who will use the property as space for the new hotel.
“Best kept neighborhood secret; extremely sad to hear the place is closing for good,” said Kirsten Smith, a regular shopper at the farmers market.
“This was the last cheap place around town,” said Sumto Samin.
Stiles has another location ten blocks away but some shoppers won’t be able to shop as often because it’s too far away.
Regulars who shopped at the original Stiles location noticed that the fruits and vegetables the other location sells aren’t as fresh.
“Not the same as the one near Port Authority. The prices are the same but the produce isn’t,” said Brandon Chang.
Today, local residents still feel the impact of the closed stores. Some have move on while others tried to get people to sign a petition, hoping to reverse the future hotel’s plans. However, they had little success.
“There’s nothing we can do but just watch the neighborhood change before our very eyes,” said Michael McKee.