Harvest Fest and remembering the Meatpacking District

October 28, 2013 |  Category:   holidays life nyc outings remembering seasonal













Did you have a good weekend-before-Halloween? One of our favorite harvest festivals in the city happen to be in the Meatpacking District and that’s where we spent our morning on Saturday. It’s held in the little plaza off of Gansevoort and the activities and even some of the food is free as local businesses in the neighborhood donate their time and goods. The kids are at an age, as Mia rather begrudgingly observed, where they are aging out of some of the holiday events in the city, but this harvest fest is still fun and age appropriate. I like it too because it’s small and very neighborhoodly and I guess I still get a kick out of the irony of this very family and kid friendly event held right in a neighborhood that was known for sex clubs, slaughterhouses and prostitutes even as recently as 15-20 years ago. But you know…NYC has changed, yada yada.


I guess Mark has now lived in the city long enough to even wax nostalgic about the old days. He started working as a pastry cook in Soho when it had long turned touristy and expensive in the mid to late 90s, but the Meatpacking District was nothing like it is now when he took a job at a new restaurant in 1999. Fressen was one of 2 restaurants that opened in the meatpacking district at a time when you could walk around and still see blood stains and grease on the cobblestoned streets. Meatpacking plants and butcheries still remained in the area, but down from the few hundred that existed when the neighborhood got its name. It was kind of exciting to go down to the restaurant in those days when Mark worked nights. There was really nothing there – just dark streets, hand lettered signs from the meatpacking plants, and the iconic sidewalk overhangs where sides of beef hung on large metal hooks that characterized this neighborhood. All of it is gone now of course, and all replaced by high end boutiques, hotels and restaurants. Probably the last nail on the coffin to any connection in the neighborhood’s namesake was when Western Beef closed in the mid-2000s.
But I think the closing of a little restaurant called Florent in 2008 was the most devastating blow to the area to New Yorkers who liked to lament on changing times. I loved Florent. I didn’t go there as often as I would have liked, but I loved its story: the owner, a Frenchman who named the restaurant after himself and put his name in lights – pink neon lights in the front window – took over a luncheonette on Gansevoort Street in 1985. Florent was much beloved, but its fate fell like so many businesses like his; the rent was reportedly increasing to 30k a month (30k!).
I might very well be destined to become one of those old people who sit around in outdoor cafes remembering how things were back in olden times, but I admit I still rather enjoy the new Meatpacking District, especially on a brilliant October morning like this past weekend. Ironically, some of the early retailers and restaurants who moved into the area in the late 90s and early 2000s as the first wave to gentrify the area have closed up or moved on to other neighborhoods because the rent has gotten so high (Stella McCartney comes to mind, and Fressen closed some years after it opened). Seems like only the big chains like Apple can afford the rent these days.

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  • lena October 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    i love when you write about NY memories. Florent! we used to eat there a lot. it was great.

  • Naomi October 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Ohh Florent such a great memory. I was so sad when it closed. I just had a flashback thinking about the club Giant Step that used to be in the meatpacking district.Ye olden days indeed.

  • Jen October 28, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Definitely nowhere on the level or scale of New York, but my little neighborhood of Capitol Hill here in Seattle has been going through some changes in the last few years, good for some, bad for others. We’ve been going to a tiny little bakery on our block that’s being forced to close its doors on Halloween because they can’t afford to stay in our area anymore. The neighborhood antique shop that was in business for 40 years just shut its doors last month. Lots of expensive boxy gray 600-square feet dorm style apartments are going up seems every week. I think neighborhoods are at their best when there’s a good mix of the old and new. And I often think about how so many people get priced out of the neighborhoods they love.

    • Jenna October 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      Jen, I totally hear you. Capitol Hill used to be the spot I hung out most in when I’d go to Seattle from Olympia in the early 90s. It may not be as drastic a change as some of the neighborhoods here, but yeah….it has definitely changed over the years!

  • Cristina October 29, 2013 at 6:01 am

    lovely pics as always, Jenna…

  • Jen Vallez October 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Ah Florent! We used to go there late nights after clubbing. One night a director came in and asked my friend & I if we wanted to be extras in a video. We were too shy & way too tired. Turned out it was a Robert Palmer video – Simply Irresistible! We must have been the ONLY choices left at that time of night.