Spend enough time on this blog, or on Jeremiah Moss' Vanishing New York or EV Grieve and you'll invariably hear one of us lament about how the Meat Packing District used to be such an endearingly rough & tumble backwater, steeped in its own brand of nightlife and culture. That's all been obliterated today. More so than the East Village or SoHo or even Times Square, the Meat Packing District's radical facelift is easily the most severe of this city's transformation over the last twenty-five years.
Walk around the MPD now, and you're bound to feel either underdressed or underfabulous and inevitably made nauseous by what you see. But back in the late 80's and 90's, it was an indescribably different scene.
I've mentioned the area a few times. Joints like The Village Idiot, The Hog Pit, The Cooler were favorites of mine back in the day. I even darkened the already-very-dark doors of The Vault once or twice. Don't bother looking for any of them now, they've all been shuttered and replaced by posh shops, ritzy restaurants and hoighty-toighty hotels.
But one of my favorite photoblogs, Gregoire Alessandrini's New York City 1990's recently put up a selection of photographs of the Meat Packing District as it looked, well, in the 1990s. If you're only familiar with the neighborhood as it looks today from the byways of the High Line, you're in for a shock. Buckle up, and take a ride through streets that stink of rotting meat (meat often left out on the sidewalk) where the only other individuals you're likely to encounter on the pavement are trannies, prostitutes, bikers, bondage aficionados and real New Yorkers.
Of all of Gregoire's photos, I chose the one up top as I vividly remember that cartoony rendering of Edward G. Robinson. Can't quite pinpoint the address anymore. And I love the below Vault sign (although the entrance the Vault was actually about a block away from there, if memory serves).