Despite its industrial history caused by the railroad that ran along the West side, it is evident that the architecture in Hell’s Kitchen is now showing signs of modern design elements. The industrial age is still extremely alive and well in the modern age, as shown by the many warehouses that are scattered along the Hudson River. Around DeWitt Clinton Park, there is a large industry for car dealerships, because of the amount of space near the river. While walking around Hell’s Kitchen, I [Serena] even stumbled upon a gas station, which I realized that I had not seen since I moved to New York City. Many buildings elicit an old sense: made of brick and covered and recovered with graffiti. However, just as the neighborhood is shedding its reputation of violence and gang affiliations, Hell’s Kitchen is also improving the design of its buildings.
In spite of their need for advancement, many residents of Hell’s Kitchen are reluctant to see the removal of the old buildings. The uprooting of these historic buildings and replacement of modern buildings may eventually lead to a homogenous look for the neighborhood. “When everything becomes the same, when tourists rule and Ranch One is the main restaurant, you have to ask if this is really a place that will attract people with different kinds of talents, interests, and new ideas,” asks resident and head of a local housing group, Joe Restuccia. The modernization of buildings is a step that is highly debatable.
One historic building, The Windermere, is currently being renovated and turned into a commercialized entity. The Windermere is an “landmarked Queen Anne-style building at West 57th Street and Ninth Avenue.” Mark Tress, the owner of the property, hopes to create an upscale hotel, affordable housing, and retail space at the base of the building. This historic landmark was built in the 1880s and used as an artists’ residence. The managers of the building were sent to jail in the 1980s for harassing the building’s tenants, and the Windermere was then owned by Toa Construction. This new company neglected this property and consequently was fined over one million dollars for “willful neglect of a landmark.”
Many local residents were content with the building’s planned renovations because the Windermere had become a popular place for the homeless to stay. However, several locals expressed their concerns for the potential noise and safety of the neighborhood that a high-end “party” hotel may bring.
In 2006, Chuck Spence, president of the West 44th Street Block Association, told a New York Times journalist, “The good news is we succeeded. The bad news is we made it so desirable that real estate values popped up, which is really the driving factor behind our losing some of the Old World charm.” Spence is one of many residents who disapprove of Hell’s Kitchen’s drastic shift in the mood of the neighborhood. He says that they succeeded in making Hell’s Kitchen a safe and nicer place to live, but is afraid that it will lose its identity as a raw and evidently historically rich neighborhood.
With the improving reputation of the neighborhood, real estate prices are increasing steadily. While many previous inhabiters of apartments in Hell’s Kitchen were struggling artists, blue collar families, and low-class singles who are searching for their silver lining in the City that Never Sleeps, many new residents are wealthier and are in search of a long-term residence. The people, along with the buildings, are quickly adapting to the gradual improvement of the neighborhood, and property owners are more than happy to get rid of the old residents who are paying a minimal mortgage or rent, and accept much higher bids from the wealthier community.
Those who are paying the original prices for their apartments are being unfairly treated by their landlords, as is show in Mr. Zimarakis’ case. A New York Times journalist investigates and discovers that:
“The scruffily bearded Mr. Zimarakis said he had had to sue his landlord because the heat in his three-room, $930-a-month railroad flat was turned off for days at a time and the cooking gas for almost six months, all while the landlord was renovating the tenement’s three lower floors to attract higher-paying renters. Mr. Shea, a wiry man with silvery hair, pays $619 a month for a rent-stabilized railroad flat, but says his landlord “would be happy to get rid of me” since he could get two or three times that amount. “Eventually this avenue is going to be just the rich or the extreme poor,” Mr. Shea said.
As the neighborhood heads towards a high-scale environment, many original residents are behaving quite differently. Some residents who insist on staying in their beloved Hell’s Kitchen apartments are poorly treated, while others take advantage of the situation. Several low-income residents who paid just $250 for their apartments are selling their properties and receiving bids up to $300,000.
Berger, Joseph. “Hell’s Kitchen, Swept Out And Remodeled.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/nyregion/19hell.html?pagewanted=all>.
Katz, Mathew. “Neglected Hell’s Kitchen Landmark to Be Converted Into Boutique Hotel.” DNAinfo New York. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131111/hells-kitchen-clinton/neglected-hells-kitchen-landmark-be-converted-into-boutique-hotel>.