Up and Coming Ninth Avenue
“…The great big city’s a wondrous toy, just made for a girl and boy. I’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.” - from Manhattan
At times, I become aware of what’s been going on underneath my own nose for some time. Ninth Avenue in between 23rd Street and 14th Street is the new Eighth Avenue, located parallel and a block east. Mysteriously, characteristics of the old Eighth Avenue have been washed away with global brand coffee shops, t-shirt stores, chain drug stores, and homogenic bank facades. A corporate migration has occurred quietly to the neighborhood, but I have begun to see that these shifting of characteristics in Manhattan neighborhoods aren’t unusual. Nevertheless, people often mumble miserably “there goes the neighborhood,” missing the old charms but becoming comfortable with the new ways of the neighborhood.
With the current economic down turns, some good things have occurred, like an editing process in the neighborhood blocks. Many Starbucks have left, unsanitary rat-crowded take-out places have departed, and clutter-loving decorative gift shops have followed in vacating the neighborhood. Surprisingly, independently owned and operated local businesses have repositioned themselves on this small stretch of Ninth Avenue.
I first start with my breakfast ritual of visiting the corner diner or stopping to pick up a coffee and freshly-prepared morning pastry from the down stairs tiny café on my way to a meeting. At times, I get a warm greeting from my dry cleaner owner-operator, who asks about my recent travels. In between my routine of strolling down the Ninth Avenue, I get to chat with local business owners and chefs, exchanging true Manhattanite warmth.
I am mostly content with the changes on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, unlike what’s going on in the Lower East Side and other neighborhoods. The changes in other neighborhoods require price increases and posh dress codes. I believe the subtle changes on Ninth Avenue manage to keep the spirit of New York: simple, tasteful, and distinctive. For now, I get to enjoy the moment, before the thoughtlessly designed global brands march into my charming neighborhood. I hope they take their time.