After years of building up the Meatpacking District, meatpackers in Manhattan are becoming a thing of the past. Unlike the Fish Market, Flower District and Printing District, the few meatpackers actually left in the Meatpacking District are home to some of the city’s most expensive real estate — and they’re barely hanging on.
However the boutique downtown meat market rallies on in part because it solves a traffic problem. “The market is useful because it’s hard for trucks outside the borough to make deliveries in lower Manhattan,” notes Vinny Pacifico, part owner of a meatpacker in the area and chairman of Bronx-based Vista Food Exchange. “Going to it is like visiting a historic village that’s still doing something.”
During its peak in the 1950s, the area housed 200 companies, employing about 3,000 butchers and wholesalers. The market sprawled from 14th Street to Horatio Street and from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson Street. Today the area only encompasses a few blocks, with approximately 120 butches. And with so few butchers left, the competition has faded into a camaraderie with each shop honing on their own specialties: one shop focuses on steaks for restaurants, while a neighbor emphasizes retailers, another dealer specializes in lamb and another in poultry.
The neighborhood took its first steps towards transformation in 1999 when a garage that served Meatpacking District truckers was replaced by Pastis. The Parisian-style restaurant welcomed fashionistas and Manhattan’s trendsetters. The neighborhood officially made its mark as a party destination for wealthy and hip New Yorkers when Sex and the City shot several scenes at Ninth Avenue’s Soho House club as the it-place to be.
Even with this influx of popular culture and high fashion, long lasting low rents remain the top reason these meatpackers are still in business. Only time will tell what’s in store for the Meatpacking District.