NYC’s Meatpacking District, now called MePa, is a hot neighborhood of designer boutiques and boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs, a top art museum, theater groups and concert stages, branded tech stores where you can test drive the latest electronic gadgets, and the park that changed it from seedy to spectacular,
The park, of course, is the High Line, an abandoned railroad spur that helped deliver sides of beef, hogs and chickens, five gallon cans of tomato sauce and 100 lb. bags of rice and flour when this was a gritty wholesale food and industrial area that supplied the city’s butcher shops and restaurants.
It was a 20 year battle by a small group of visionaries to save the elevated track from demolition and turn it into a mile-long park, from 34th St. to 14th St., which has become one of the most popular outdoor destinations in town.
They also helped launch a movement that has become known as Rails to Trails, turning other abandoned tracks into parks, from Montana to Jerusalem.
But I digress.
Meatpacking District History
My father was a butcher – his shop was on 231st St. and Broadway in Riverdale, Bronx – and I remember coming here with him when I was a child to help him pick out a side of beef, which would cut it up in the store with the knives he always kept razor sharp.
My father would not know what to make of the changes here.
In those days, the area was busy from 5am to around 1pm, when the workers would go home and many of the bosses went a few blocks to the Old Homestead for a huge steak dinner.
It’s one of New York City’s oldest restaurants, at Ninth Ave. and 15th St. since 1868, and continues to be one of the best steakhouses in the city, with a menu that now includes burgers and lobster rolls.
In other hours, especially overnight, this was a dangerous neighborhood, with sex and drugs peddled openly.
Now, MeaPa is busy 24/7 as a destination both for NYC visitors and residents, and many of the former warehouse buildings now house high tech firms like Google and Amazon upstairs, and trendy restaurants at the ground level.
Here’s what to see and do in MePa, many of whose streets are still paved with historic cobblestones.