“Its an interesting neighborhood. On one hand you still have some Hispanics and long time New Yorkers there. At the same time, rent is relatively cheap so a good number of first time renters new to the city live there, who are very transient and tend to leave once their pay gets better. “ — Chris Chan, recent resident of Hell’s Kitchen.
“I really love Hell’s Kitchen! It has amazing food. The community is really gay-friendly, and mostly younger people. There are a lot of kids and not many homeless people. I’d say it’s pretty safe. And I’ve never seen a rat around here, it’s awesome! There are so many convenient things all around, and it’s nice being close to Central Park.” — Miranda Jackson, first-year student at the Alvin Ailey Training Program, currently living in Hell’s Kitchen.
The “sidewalk ballet” as described by Jane Jacobs is in full effect in Hell’s Kitchen. Each person who enters the street has a specific role to play in the intricate performance happening in this neighborhood. People cross paths throughout the day, sometimes stopping to talk, sometimes hurrying on their way to catch the subway or get to work on time. Artists hurry around with work in hand, dancers nimbly pick their way through the tourists on their way to class. Children exit their homes, and enter the performance by playing in the street or on the sidewalk. An older woman, a long time member of the performance troupe, looks on over her community from a window, making a subtle contribution. When nighttime falls, the ballet picks up pace, with the hundreds of restaurants and bars coming to life and taking part in the extravagant event that is the Hell’s Kitchen Ballet.
The residents of Hell’s Kitchen today are extremely diverse in both ethnicity and occupation. A melting pot of ethnicities that has been accumulating since the mid-1800’s, typical residents of the neighborhood include lower-budget gay men, actors and musicians keeping close to the theater district, 20- to 30-year old creative professionals and young mid-town business workers, and a few old timers, although many are being forced to leave due to rising rents.
The gay population of Manhattan over the past few decades has been centered around Chelsea and the West Village. However, these areas are quite pricey, and in recent years an immense number of gay males have moved into Hell’s Kitchen for its more affordable rent prices. Men typically feel more secure than women moving into tougher neighborhoods, such as Hell’s Kitchen. They have also been a large factor in Hell’s Kitchen’s rapid gentrification. Because gay men are less likely to have children than gay females and heterosexuals, they tend to invest more in fast-rising property development.
There are also many artistic assets in the neighborhood that draw in the creative professions including the Actors Studio, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center and Theatre Row. These centers of arts culture have been drawing in more and more young performers over the past few decades due to the large amount of creatives that had previously worked in the area during the mid-1900’s, such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlin Brando. The cheaper housing in the neighborhood also draws in the “starving artists” with more affordable rent pricing.
Despite all of the newcomers, Hell’s Kitchen still supports some old-time residents who have stood by their neighborhood. Many of these residents are sadly being forced to move out of the area due to the quick-rising rent prices. As a result, not all residents are happy with the new up-and-coming image that Hell’s Kitchen is now portraying. Many feel that with gentrification the neighborhood is losing the vital quality of human contact, the community. The residents of Hell’s Kitchen have typically been an oppositional and right-driven people, resisting everything from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, to Westway and low-flying helicopters. Success has been won for the people of the neighborhood in cases such as the New York Apple Tours, the Costco national warehouse club, and the overturning of a zoning rule that let Broadway theater owners sell air rights to developers.
Tourists make up a large portion of the people in Hell’s Kitchen at any given time. Restaurant Row draws in people from all over the city with its top-notch cuisine, with the theater district and Times Square adjoin the neighborhood to the east, sending traffic through the area by shear proximity. Shopping to the north near Columbus Circle is also a popular attraction. In the west along the Hudson River, especially at the 39th Street Peer, hundreds of passenger ferries and Cruise lines dock, bringing thousands of tourist into the area. The Port Authority bus terminal is located in east-central Hell’s Kitchen, once again creating a heavy flow of human traffic.
Morgan, Richard. “Hell’s Kitchen Bubbles as Activity Escalates; Manhattan District Is No Longer a Bermuda Triangle for Development.” Wall Street Journal Online (2013): 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
Collins, Glenn. “Hell’s Kitchen’s Appeal Rises, Old-Timers Battle Stadium Plan.”New York Times 13 Dec. 2000, late ed., sec. B: 1. Print.